The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation says the first roundabout constructed in the six-county northwestern district has produced a significant safety improvement, and it expects to begin work on two roundabouts in Crawford County in 2016.
The first roundabout in District 1 – which serves Crawford, Erie, Forest, Mercer, Venango and Warren counties – was opened to traffic on Aug. 20, 2014, at the southern intersection of Route 19 and Route 97 in Waterford Township, Erie County.
In the year since the roundabout was built, that intersection has been the site of two reportable accidents with no injuries. Both accidents involved single vehicles with motorists in their 20s, one of whom had an elevated blood alcohol level.
Before the roundabout was built, a five-year crash history of the intersection showed that 25 people were injured, three seriously, in 27 reportable crashes, including three head-on and 10 angle crashes. Reportable accidents are generally those in which someone is injured or a vehicle has to be towed from the scene.
“This was the type of safety improvement we envisioned and hoped for when we selected the intersection as a location for a roundabout,” said District 1 Executive William G. Petit. “While a roundabout might not be a good fit for every intersection, roundabouts offer a significant safety enhancement where they can be accommodated.”
PennDOT installed a roundabout at the Waterford intersection because studies show that compared to signalized intersections, single-lane roundabouts experience 90 percent fewer fatal crashes, 75 percent fewer injury-causing crashes, a 30- to 40-percent reduction in pedestrian crashes and a 10-percent reduction in bicycle crashes.
Roundabouts also typically carry approximately 30 percent more vehicles than similarly sized signalized intersections during peak traffic-flow conditions and they reduce delays.
District 1 currently has plans to build at least four more roundabouts – one at Millfair Road and Route 5 in Erie County, two at intersections of routes 6/19 and Route 198 in Crawford County, and one on Dock Street in Sharon in Mercer County.
While modern roundabouts are relatively new, they are growing in popularity and number throughout Pennsylvania and the nation.
PennDOT offers this advice to motorists encountering a roundabout:
• Slow down when approaching the roundabout and be prepared to yield to any pedestrians in the crosswalk.
• Approach the “Yield” line, look to the left and check for approaching traffic within the roundabout. Circulating traffic already in the roundabout has the right of way.
• Enter the roundabout when there is a safe gap in traffic. If necessary, stop at the “Yield” line until there is a safe gap in traffic.
• Upon entering the roundabout, drivers have the right of way and should proceed counterclockwise to their exit point.
• Drivers approaching their exit should use their right turn signal, watch for pedestrians in the crosswalk and be prepared to yield to pedestrians.