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The growing appeal of traffic roundabouts in Ohio, nationally

Although Ohio does not rank at or near the top of states having the most roundabout intersections, it certainly has its share, with the European-inspired traffic feature becoming an increasingly familiar site on state roads.

The trend has been clear for several years. As evidence of that, the Columbus Dispatch featured a story from 2007 entitled, "No getting around roundabout craze."

Why the growing popularity?

To traffic engineers and safety gurus, the reasons are myriad. At the top of the list: a clear reduction in car accidents. Roundabouts encourage awareness of drivers as they approach and enter them, and speeds are necessarily slow, given the curving pattern. As a result, a crash can generally be avoided.

If not, its effects are often minimal, both in terms of human injury and property damage. And safety experts note that accidents in which one vehicle slams into the driver's side of another vehicle -- common and often deadly in "standard" four-way intersections -- cannot occur in roundabouts, with traffic flowing similarly.

Roundabout experts and advocates convened last month in Washington, D.C., to discuss research findings before thousands of transportation professionals at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board.

One of the stars at the meeting was David Noyce, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and head of the Wisconsin Traffic Operations and Safety Laboratory. Noyce has an unbridled enthusiasm for roundabouts, regarding them as a singular innovation.

"In typical traffic engineering, there's a tradeoff between safety and operations," he says, noting that "safe" typically equates to "inefficient." That is not the case with roundabout, he states, which "offer benefits in both of these."

Source: PHYSORG, "Roundabouts emerging as the ideal intersection between driver safety and efficiency" Renee Meiller, Feb. 2, 2012

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