Love them or hate them, roundabouts seem to elicit strong feelings among drivers.
Regardless of where you fall, the number of roundabouts here in the state is on the rise, which is why transportation officials want to make sure drivers know the rules when navigating them.
The state Department of Transportation released a tutorial video this week that uses drone footage of the two-lane roundabout in Lee as an example of what to do – and what not to do – behind the wheel.
Bill Oldenburg is the assistant director of project development for the Department of Transportation, and is an authority on roundabouts. He joined NHPR’s Morning Edition.
Why did the department put this tutorial together?
After the Lee roundabout was constructed and complete – it was about last June of 2016 – we noticed some driver behavior that didn’t go away as people drove through the roundabout.
What was some of that behavior?
People were failing to yield when they entered to traffic that was already in the roundabout because it’s two lanes. We saw people that, if there was a car on the inside lane, they would enter right next to it on the outside lane. That’s not good, because you don’t know where that car on the inside lane is going to exit. So you should always, as the signs say, yield to both lanes of traffic in the roundabout. We repeatedly saw that. In the video, we used drones to monitor traffic. We could see how cars entered, how cars went through, how cars exited.
One of the other driver behaviors we noticed was people changing lanes in the roundabout. Ninety-nine percent of the cars got it right. It’s that 1 percent that wasn’t yielding, that was changing lanes, and we came to the realization: maybe they don’t know they’re doing something wrong. So most information out there about driving in a roundabout is what you do. So this video actually has examples of what you shouldn’t do, as well. It gives that perspective of you need to yield and why, you shouldn’t change lanes and why. The other aspect is big trucks, trying to avoid big trucks because they go slower. We saw people that would overtake and try to pass trucks. That’s not good in any situation. We haven’t seen crashes or anything related to that, it’s just a behavior we wanted people to be aware of.
It seems like we’re seeing more roundabouts pop up, but is that the case? Are there more roundabouts in the pipeline?
There are. The state’s first roundabout, true roundabout – and there’s a distinction between the traffic circles and rotaries that we had, and a modern roundabout – our first modern roundabout is 10 years old. Now, there are 40 in the state; some built by the state, some built by local communities. Right now, there are 12 more that we know of that are planned.
Are these replacing existing intersections or is it all new construction?
The latest one we know that’s under construction is in Concord at Exit 16, at Shawmut Road and Mountain Road. That’s been talked about for a number of years and it’s finally under construction. We see a lot of the bigger communities putting in roundabouts: Concord, Nashua, Manchester, Keene. Roundabouts process a lot of traffic, a lot more efficiently than a signal, a lot more efficiently than other types of intersections.
Do we see more roundabouts in New England or is this a nationwide trend?
This is a nationwide trend. There are a lot of other states that are further ahead than we are in promoting roundabouts. In New York, for example, their preferred intersection is a roundabout. In New York, they will design a roundabout and you have to prove to them a roundabout won’t work before they put in a signal. So you see a lot more roundabouts popping up in other states.