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Getting around the roundabouts

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We received a question regarding roundabouts and how to properly navigate them. Although we currently don’t have any roundabouts in Cass County they are being utilized in neighboring counties and if you travel to metro areas you will encounter them. According to MNDOT, there are now over 100 roundabouts in Minnesota, most of which are on MNDOT highway systems. By understanding roundabouts and their uses, we can help improve traffic safety and be comfortable in using them. The following is from the MNDOT website on roundabouts.

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The use of roundabouts promotes several things:

• Better safety. Roundabouts show a 39 percent decrease in all crashes and an 89 percent decrease in fatal crashes.

• Better traffic flow. Roundabouts can handle high levels of traffic with less delay than most stop signs or signals. The tight curves slow traffic so entering and exiting is easier and more efficient.

• Better fuel efficiency and air quality. Where roundabouts replace signals, idling decreases which reduces vehicle emissions and fuel consumption by 30 percent or more.

A roundabout is defined as a type of circular intersection or junction in which road traffic is slowed and flows almost continuously in one direction around a central island to several exits onto the various intersecting roads. In a modern roundabout, entering traffic must always yield to traffic already in the circle, and roundabouts have additional restrictions on the junction layout to give high safety. Elimination of the opportunity for the most deadly crashes at intersections (T-bone or perpendicular crashes), is the greatest asset of the intersection design. Pedestrians are routed away from the intersection into which automobiles enter to separate crosswalks located at least one full car length outside of the intersection, where they have a refuge between lanes of traffic.

Modern roundabouts are designed to maximize safety for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, without the use of traffic signals. These roundabouts can have either a single lane of traffic or multiple lanes to maintain a consistent flow of traffic. Multi-lane roundabouts are designated by signs and pavement markings that inform drivers which lane to choose. Triangular islands between directions of traffic give pedestrians a safe place to wait when crossing only one direction at a time. Crosswalks are set farther back, allowing drivers more time to react to pedestrians before merging in or out of the roundabout.

Yield signs caution drivers to slow and give right-of-way to vehicles already in the roundabout. If there is no traffic in the roundabout, vehicles may proceed without yielding.

A truck apron is the raised section of concrete around the central island that acts as an extra lane for large vehicles. The back wheels of the oversize vehicle can ride up on the concrete so the truck can easily complete the turn.

There are a few key things to remember when driving in roundabouts:

• Yield to drivers already in the roundabouts

• Stay in your lane; do not change lanes

• Do not stop in the roundabout

• Avoid driving next to oversize vehicles.

• Slow down as you approach the roundabout.

• For multi-lane roundabouts, as with any intersection, get into the appropriate lane as you approach the roundabout.

• Yield to pedestrians and bicyclists crossing the roadway.

• Watch for signs or pavement markings that require or prohibit certain movements.

• When entering a roundabout, yield to vehicles already in the roundabout. Do not cross into the roundabout until all traffic from the left has cleared.

• After entering the roundabout, drive in a counter-clockwise direction until you reach your exit.

• Do not stop, pass or change lanes within a roundabout.

• If an emergency vehicle approaches, exit the roundabout immediately and then pull over.

Roundabouts are also engineered for safe cycling and pedestrian uses. Cyclists can either ride with traffic inside the roundabout or use the crosswalks appropriately. Cyclists who ride with traffic must follow the same rules as vehicles and must yield as they enter the roundabout. Since traffic moves slowly in the circle, cyclists should be able to travel at or near the same speed as motorists, staying in line with circulating traffic.

Pedestrians must cross only at crosswalks, and always stay on the designated walkways. Never cross to the central island. Cross the roadways one direction at a time. Use the median island as a halfway point where you can check for approaching traffic.

Visit http://www.dot.state.mn.us/roundabouts/ for more information on Roundabouts and how they are being used in Minnesota, as well as videos and diagrams of roundabouts in use.

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, feel free to contact me anytime using one of the following methods:

tom.burch@co.cass.mn.us

218-547-1424 or 1-800-450-2677

By mail/in person

Cass County Sheriff’s Office

303 Minnesota Avenue W.

P.O. Box 1119

Walker, MN 56484

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