Roundabouts: They’re working, PennDOT says
How to navigate a roundabout
Roundabouts are like vegetables. They’re good for you, even if you can’t stand them.
At least, that’s what PennDOT is saying after reviewing crash data at 19 locations that have been converted into roundabouts. These spots showed decreases in fatalities (2 to 0), suspected serious injuries (10 to 1) and total number of accidents (138 to 91).
“We are glad to promote the use of roundabouts throughout the commonwealth,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said in a news release. “The facts speak for themselves. Roundabouts save lives and reduce crash severity over standard stop or signal controlled intersections.”
Along with the 19 included in the report, PennDOT has built 29 other roundabouts and plans on constructing another 40. The other existing roundabouts were not included in the report because they did not have three years of crash data either before or after their construction. The closest PennDOT roundabouts to the Lehigh Valley — the Route 209 roundabout in Monroe County and the Route 222 roundabout in Berks County — were not included.
The positive crash data has encouraged PennDOT to build more roundabouts. The first PennDOT roundabout in the Lehigh Valley should begin construction by early 2020 where Route 222, Route 863 and Schantz Road are clustered in Upper Macungie Township. PennDOT crash data indicated there were 23 crashes between the three intersections last year.
PennDOT isn’t looking to add roundabouts everywhere. Engineers need to consider topography, vehicle capacity and other nearby intersections when considering if a roundabout is a good fit.
PennDOT spokeswoman Jan Huzvar acknowledged that roundabouts are not always popular. When PennDOT posted roundabout information on its Facebook page this week, the comments seemed to be split down the middle between supporters and objectors, she said.
“It’s a learning curve, but once you get used to them, we tend not to hear complaints,” she said.
The Federal Highway Administration praises them, saying they tend to improve traffic flow because vehicles don’t need to stop at a red light or a stop sign. But while traffic doesn’t stop, it does tend to slow down, which decreases the severity of crashes and makes for safer conditions for cyclists and pedestrians.
Roundabouts also eliminate left-hand turns, which the experts say are dangerous because they usually require vehicles to turn through lanes carrying oncoming traffic. These conflict points, as engineers call them, create higher risks of accidents.