Where is this oversized (and traffic jammed) traffic circle?

Why anyone thought it was a good idea to give vehicles entering the circle right of way over those leaving is beyond me. It seems like an obvious flaw. The picture in the OP perfectly illustrates why.

We’re about to experience that near my workplace. After installing a couple of trial roundabouts, the city and county have decided to convert nearly every intersection along this particular stretch of road into roundabouts as part of a road widening/interstate access project. The amount of whining I’ve been hearing is getting on my nerves (“It’s gonna be a mess!! It’s gonna be a mess!! It’s gonna be a mess!!” non-stop on the day a piece about the project appeared in the local paper). For some reason people seem to think that the current combination of a high-traffic road with poor visibility for left turns is vastly superior.

One county I travel through on my commute is in the process of converting rural intersections into roundabouts. One that is scheduled to be converted this way had to be made into a four-way stop after a traffic fatality. People truly don’t know how to handle this intersection; there are skid marks all over the place, and I regularly see drivers completely ignore right-of-way.

There’s still a number of them around in the US and Canada. Most that I’ve seen are in the east, Massachusetts or New Jersey mainly, but also at least a couple in Ontario.

The idea of traffic inside the circle yielding goes back to the 1920s, when traffic loads were a lot smaller. Those circles were also a lot bigger than the usual roundabouts of today, so there could be more vehicles in the circle. Also they usually had higher speed limits; cars were not expected to slow getting into the circle. So speeds of 35 to 50 mph were common. And yes, they did have problems when traffic loads increased, which is why circular intersections fell out of favor in the US during the 50s. And that’s why the US didn’t adapt the modern roundabout for quite a few years after it was invented.

Here is a different way of organising a complicated roundabout Google Maps

You need to zoom in close to see the road markings. The lanes form a kind of spiral so that provided you start in the right place, you will be in the right place for your exit.

Agreed and agreed. Odd that, given our careers. :wink:

I have a navigator built into my car. I only use it for the run to/from work, and only because it gives me a real-time ETA; I can find my way there and home again just fine. :wink:

Anyhow, I leave it set to a screen that shows ETA, distance and time remaining, distance to fuel exhaustion, etc. which is great. Except just as we come up on any of the junctions, it switches to a graphical screen showing bear left, right whatever. Of course at each of those “fixes” is exactly when my habit is to look at the thing for time of fix passage & any change in ETA. Which are off the screen then. Damn.

Silly man from a civilized country!

We don’t have any driver training in most of the USA. It’s 100% informal. Learn the rules from some cheat website just enough to pass the pitiful written test, figure out how to drive by watching your next door neighbor do it, then go take the practical exam behind the wheel. If no metal is bent, you’re a licensed driver. At one time driver’s education was a part of the high school curriculum, but that went away 30 years ago in the name of lower taxes.

There are commercial companies that will teach you for a fee, but they’re very lowest common denominator as well.

Wait, what? I am familiar with the laws in only two states - New Hampshire, where I got my driver license at age 16, and Hawai’i, where my son got his. Both states required that official driver’s education classes be completed. Hawai’i also mandated that a certain number of practice hours, including both day and night driving, be completed by the student prior to taking the road and written tests. There was a log we had to fill out to verify his hours.

I’m sure the laws aren’t identical everywhere, but since I’m two for two on states having fairly reasonable rules for training drivers, I’d be surprised if most of the other 48 were completely laissez faire.

Got my license at 14. Just had to take written test and drive around with an “examiner” in the car. Done. No formal training of any kind (South Dakota, 1995).

IIRC, D.C. and Maryland had different laws on this subject, meaning that who had the right-of-way changed halfway through Chevy Chase Circle.

Assuming the local standard is drive-on-right …

Vehicles entering the circle are on the right. Vehicles in the circle are on the left. While I agree that smart traffic flow policy is to have traffic in the circle have priority, that’s the opposite of the standard “vehicle on the right has right of way” rule that is used for every other situation in driving.

So society is back to the common tradeoff between overall consistency and individually optimal special cases.

In my work we have rules, exceptions, exceptions to the exceptions, and exceptions to the exceptions to the exceptions. It takes a very professional dedication to keep all that crap straight in real time.

For the general public, simpler = more consistent is better. Especially when the novel thing, a roundabout, is first being introduced and is so rare most folks first encounter one years later. And of course once the law opts into either RoW rule, the longer it’s in place, the harder it is to change. The “installed base” of both signage and well-practised drivers only gets bigger & more ossified with time.


I’m not suggesting being consistent with conventional intersections (traffic entering roundabout has right of way) was the correct decision when and where it was made. But I am suggesting why it was made.

I wouldn’t say it’s 100% informal - I imagine a number of states have one class or another that a driver’s license applicant must be complete. ( NYS has a 5 hour classroom pre-licensing course- it used to be 3 hours) . But in looking at the Hawai’i drivers license requirements , I found the following listed requirements for a road test appointment:

  1. Application who are 16-17 years old must present:
  • Learner’s Permit held for a period of at least 180 days
  • Driver Education Student Completion Certificate (Form HDOT DE-20, 12-2000)
  • Behind-the-Wheel Student Completion Certificate (Form HDOT DE-21, 12-2000

New Hampshire has a supervised driving log that states applicants under 18 must complete a specified amount of supervised driving.

Since those completion certificates/logs are mentioned for applicants under 18 , it seems that a 25 year old getting a license would not need them and could follow much the same process as adults in other states - take a written test to get a permit, learn how to drive from whoever you want - (parent, spouse, neighbor , driving school) , take a classroom course if your state requires it , and practice driving with any licensed adult in the front seat until you believe you are ready for a road test. License requirements for those under 18 are often different than those for adults.

True, and I should have mentioned that the requirements refer to first-time license applicants under 18. But (traditionally, I guess I’m an old fuddy-duddy and things have changed), everyone got their license ASAP, so the vast majority of new licenses were issued to those under 18.

Thanks LSLGuy, I’m sure you’re right. As someone else said when traffic is low it’s not much of a problem so consistency makes sense.

Did you do that with the labels?
Amusing.

But surely that is overridden by an even more general and fundemental rule that traffic moving on the road you are joining has right of way and that you, the person wanting to join that piece of road, must wait for a suitable gap.

Such a rule is in play for any junction unless expressly stated otherwise and it works just as well for roundabouts.

Yield for some reason is a problem for a lot of American drivers. Many seem to think yield means “just barrel on and good luck everybody else” or “panic stop and wait even though there’s 1,000’ of merge lane ahead.” Maintaining the proper lane through a turn, especially in multi-lane turns, also seems to be beyond a lot of people’s comprehension, even when there’s dotted (or here in Cincinnati, solid) lines marking where to go. Both of these issues cause problems at roundabouts, specifically multi-lane ones. Australians seem to have problems in this respect as well, though the manifestation indicates it’s for different reasons (that’s a discussion for another time).

The real question though is WHY are these issues? A lack of enforcement and poor driver’s education is part of it. I think another part is the complete lack of any sort of follow-up testing or a comprehensive way to disseminate new laws or policies to drivers. There’s people who got their licenses half a century ago and unless they moved to a different state all they’ve had to do to renew their license is pay a fee and take a brief vision test.

Even people who aren’t blue-hairs don’t necessarily know when laws change or new devices come into use. There’s also a lot of subtleties in laws between states that cause the commenters on dashcam videos to talk past one another. For instance, in Ohio you can NOT make a right turn on red if it’s a red arrow, only if it’s a red ball and there’s no sign that says “no turn on red.” In some states you can do that, but not with a left red arrow, unless it’s to a one-way street, and only from a one-way street, except in Oregon. Some states say you must turn into the equivalent lane on the street you’re turning into (innermost to innermost, outermost to outermost, 2nd from left to 2nd from left, etc.) but some states don’t. Laws about when to stop for school buses are also different and can be confusing. Many states are implementing minimum passing distance laws for cyclists and other slow-moving vehicles, new right-of-way clarifications, and yes, roundabouts, diverging diamonds, SPUI’s, and the like.

If motorists had to take a test on these things when they renew their license, I think it would help a lot. It doesn’t even have to be a proctored test or anything. Put the answers on the back or give them a pamphlet, just make it so they have to write out the correct answer or otherwise indicate that they read the relevant parts. Even just showing it to them while at the counter or in line would help. A once-a-decade article in the newspaper nobody reads doesn’t cut it.

True as far as it goes.

But from the simple-minded POV of somebody traveling north on Main Blvd who intends to proceed 180 degrees around the roundabout and continue north on Main Blvd, the roundabout is traffic merging into his road. Not vice versa. And especially not if there had been a 4 way intersection there for years before they installed this “newfangled nuisance.”

I’m not defending this attitude as smart. I am suggesting it’s very widespread in the USA.

Step that up even further if in the old 4-way crossing Main Blvd was the clear through road and the cross road had a STOP sign.

But nothing a 2-minute compulsory section in the driver training can’t fix.
In the UK if you can’t navigate a roundabout you don’t get a licence.

That’s a darn good thing.

Here in the USA you might have to drive 1,000 miles and cross 3 state borders to get to the nearest roundabout. Or, like me, you may have 2 of them within half a mile of your home.

This vast difference between various local realities is a lot of why the US as a whole can’t have a lot of nice things. Sometimes that’s a feature; far more often it’s a bug.

Similar to the Michigan left. Traffic circles are catching on big time here, Marquette recently constructed several and it really keeps traffic flowing. There is also Diverging Diamond at Cascade Rd & I96. The pavement markings clearly direct one to the correct lanes. IMO the Swindon Circle is a thing of beauty. Loved driving the circles on Hlwd Blvd too.