Experts say roundabouts can save lives

Anyone who has driven in California in recent years may have encountered roundabouts. The state is one of many that have replaced some traffic signals at intersections with roundabouts; traffic circles can help reduce fatalities and serious injuries. Roundabouts are common in Europe and some other parts of the world, but the United States has been slow to adopt them. However, one state is now installing more roundabouts even in rural areas.

After a fatal accident in 2011 at an intersection in Robeson County, North Carolina, a stop sign was installed at the intersection. Serious accidents continued, however, with the county having the highest rate of traffic fatalities per 1,000 vehicles in the state for several years. The stop sign was replaced with a roundabout in June. Though the work was expensive for the rural county, engineers estimate that the roundabout will save twice as much in the cost of accidents and injuries and reduce the traffic injury rate in the county by 89 percent.

According to statistics, roundabouts don't actually reduce the number of accidents, but they do reduce the chances that someone who is involved in an accident will be seriously injured or killed. One engineer says that roundabouts eliminate the problem of drivers having to estimate whether or not they have time to get through an intersection. In a roundabout, traffic is all moving in the same direction around a central island. A driver entering a roundabout merges with moving traffic when there is a big enough gap for his or her car to enter.

Though many car accidents are caused by human error, accidents can sometimes be caused by circumstances that are beyond the control of any drivers involved. If an accident is caused by poor road conditions or poor road design, the government entity that is responsible for the roads may be liable. A lawyer may help accident victims pursue compensation from the liable party.

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