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Roundabouts reduce injuries, save lives

When roundabouts first began replacing traditional road intersections in our area several years ago, there was a good deal of grumbling and resistance. Nobody likes change, and our perception of roundabouts was greatly shaped by the scene from “European Vacation,” in which a family is hopelessly and eternally entangled in a roundabout in Europe.
From the start, the top goal of roundabouts was to increase safety, and the secondary goal was to increase traffic efficiency and flow— no more waiting for a red light to change to green when there was nary another vehicle in sight.
The first roundabout to be installed in the area was on Highway 15 north of Hutchinson, and it took several months for people to get used to navigating it. Some also contended that its circumfrence was too small, causing issues for semis with long loads.
Since then, other roundabouts have popped up in the area, one south of Hutchinson on Highway 15, a couple on Highway 7 east of the county, and the metro area is becoming increasingly populated with them, even on residential streets.
This week, the Minnesota Department of Transportation released a study on the safety benefits of roundabouts, comparing before and after accident statistics from the traditional intersection and the new roundabouts.
The study found, that in single-lane roundabouts, there has been a 69 percent reduction in right-angle crashes, an 83 percent reduction in left-turn crashes, and a 61 percent reduction in crashes that result in injuries.
That’s great news, but there is more that can be done to increase safety at roundabout intersections.
The state needs to adopt a standard for roundabouts. Some areas have single-lane roundabouts, others have multi-lane roundabouts, which just increases confusion. Some roundabouts have bypass ramps that allow travelers to directly enter another roadway to the right without using the roundabout at all.
Obviously, no one-design plan is going to work at every intersection, but one would hope that there could be a standard to shoot for, something that everyone is familiar with, so that drivers don’t need to try and navigate a new design each time they come to an intersection in unfamiliar territory.
Roundabouts have proven to provide safer intersections and help with traffic flow. Let’s keep working to make them even better.