The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

March 7, 2010

Carol Stark: Help in a roundabout way

Carthage got one in 2003.

Joplin has one and so does Duquesne.

Neosho residents use one, and now Carl Junction is considering adding five of them to its town.

I’m talking about roundabouts, the revolving doors of traffic plans.

Lately, I’ve been receiving e-mails from readers asking the Globe to provide a driver’s tutorial on how to correctly use a roundabout. Here’s the thing — if you use a roundabout incorrectly, you’ll know it right away.

But, since I’m the last person in the world who should be giving anyone a driving lesson, I went to the authorities who designed these traffic circles.

According to the Missouri Department of Transportation, a roundabout, also called a traffic wheel, is an intersection that accommodates traffic flow in one direction around a central circular island. It is used as a form of intersection control, like traffic signals or stop signs. They are popular in Europe and are being used more and more in the United States. Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield and Branson all have roundabouts.

Lori Marble, Southwest District community relations manager for MoDOT, said the popularity of the roundabout stems from cost. It’s cheaper to install a roundabout than it is to install traffic signals.

Key roundabout features, according to traffic designers, are:

* Yield control for entering traffic (the vehicle in the roundabout has the right of way).

* Channelized approaches.

* Appropriate geometric curvature to slow speeds.

OK, now in simple terms. When you approach a roundabout, slow down and look to your left. If there’s a car coming, stop. If no one’s coming, then go. If you get confused and fail to exit where you are supposed to, you can make the circle as many times as you need until you get your bearings. I’m not saying that’s ever happened to me.

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