A roundabout is an alternative to a traditional intersection. Using a roundabout can be confusing because it has no traffic lights or stops signs. Also known as a traffic circle, the traffic in a roundabout flows continuously in a counterclockwise direction.
Roundabouts are common in Europe, and they are growing in popularity across the United States, including in Santa Barbara. Roundabouts reduce traffic congestion, but they can be dangerous for drivers who aren’t used to them.
The Benefits of Roundabouts
Proponents of roundabouts argue that they improve traffic flow, reduce fatalities, and they can be very attractive. Roundabouts are also less expensive to maintain because they don’t have traffic signals.
Drivers are expected to slow down to about 20 mph when entering a roundabout. The reduced speed reduces the severity of injuries that may occur in a collision. Roundabouts also eliminate T-bone collision and accidents that result when drivers run a red light, which are two types of dangerous collisions that often occur at intersections.
Problems with Roundabouts
City planners and traffic engineers are big fans of roundabouts, but a lot of drivers are less enthusiastic about them. A roundabout is completely different than a regular intersection, and this can cause problems for people who are not familiar with them.
The biggest issue when driving in a roundabout is figuring out who has the right-of-way. Drivers must wait for a break in traffic before entering a roundabout. Then they travel continuously until they are ready to exit the roundabout.
Drivers who are new to roundabouts tend to be overly cautious about entering the flow of traffic. They also have a tendency to stop suddenly to let other drivers in, which can cause them to be rear-ended.
Other issues that may cause accidents in roundabout include:
- Failure to yield. Each driver must yield and wait their turn before entering a roundabout or a serious crash involving several vehicles may occur.
- Speeding. Drivers are used to entering intersections at speeds much higher than 20 mph. It’s essential to reduce your speed in a roundabout to match the flow of traffic.
- Distracted driving. Texting, talking, changing the radio, and other activities that distract the driver’s attention are especially hazardous when using a roundabout because the traffic never stops.
- Trucks and other large vehicles require more space to maneuver than regular automobiles. They may have difficulty negotiating the tight spaces of a roundabout. When driving in a roundabout, it’s important to yield to trucks and make sure you are giving them plenty of room.
More Roundabouts Are Coming to Santa Barbara
Local residents can expect to see more roundabouts in the future. The Olive Mill Road roundabout is slated to be built soon in Montecito. The Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously to continue the project at a projected cost of $7 million to $10 million despite reservations voiced by some local residents.
The Los Positas-Cliff Drive roundabout has received praise for its attractive landscaping. In fact, it won the Santa Barbara Garden Native Choice Award.
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