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How to safely navigate roundabouts in Michigan

roundabout

Confused about roundabouts? You’re not alone.

Designed to reduce speeds and serious crashes, roundabouts also have a tendency to increase confusion among some drivers. As Michigan slowly joins other states in adding roundabouts, here are some facts and tips:

Traditional intersections are dangerous

About 37,000 people per year die in car crashes nationwide (including about 1,000 in Michigan), according to federal statistics. About 40 percent of all injury-related crashes occur at intersections, involving some 767,000 people.

Roundabouts are designed to slow traffic and eliminate the sharpest angles of turns that cause the most serious crashes. The tradeoff: At some roundabouts, less-serious sideswipes actually increase.

By the numbers

  • Roundabouts decrease traffic jams compared to red lights. One Michigan study claimed that every single-lane roundabout on average added about $500,000 to the economy in increased productivity.
  • Safety increases, big-time: Overall, crashes decline 38 percent at intersections converted to roundabouts, while fatalities fall some 90 percent and injuries drop 70 percent or more, according to one study.
  • Michigan follows trend: At the 47 roundabouts on state roads, 92 percent of crashes involved no reported injuries in 2018, compared to 73 percent of crashes at traditional trunkline intersections in the same year, state records show.
  • USA lags: By most estimates, the United States has about 5,000 roundabouts, compared to 10,000 in the United Kingdom and 30,000 in France.

Roundabout rules

  • Slow down. 
  • Pick a lane and stay in it.
  • Follow the road sign markings.
  • Yield to drivers in the roundabout.
  • Don’t stop in a roundabout, even for emergency vehicles.
  • Stay in your lane. 
  • Don’t pass trucks.

What about crashes?

  • While roundabouts decrease crashes on average nationwide, studies in Michigan suggest minor ones actually increase with many roundabouts. Some suggest the crashes decline in a few years, but Michigan state records aren’t available to back up the assertion.

You’re at fault in roundabouts if: your car enters the roundabout and strikes another vehicle; you exit in a different lane than the ones designed by lane signs; a crash occurs when you change lanes; you rear-end another car, according to the Michigan Auto Law firm.

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