Connecticut Roundabouts Win Engineering Prize

By: Marie McCarthy

A Hartford area traffic circle is saving lives and winning prizes. The Harford Courant reports that two roundabouts in Glastonbury, CT, have won awards from the state’s chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies. The roundabouts were installed at very dangerous, busy intersections. The state had not approved traffic lights at the locations so circles were built instead. The result was better than anyone could have imagined.

The paper reports that one of the circles has reduced collisions by 30%, the other one has dropped that number by 60%. A study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that traffic circles are far more efficient and safer than traffic lights and stop signs.

By the numbers, the roundabouts reduce injury crashes by 75% at places where signals or signs were previously deployed. There are typically 37% fewer collisions, 90% fewer fatal collisions, and 40% fewer pedestrian collisions.

Data from the Washington State Department of Transportation shows that roundabouts are safer for three main reasons: low travel speeds, no traffic lights and one-way travel.

Further, the report shows that traffic flows faster at traffic circles because they do not need to stop and go intermittently, but rather continue driving while yielding to other vehicles. Kansas State University researchers say roundabouts reduce delays by 20%.

In addition to being safer and more expedient, they’re also more eco-friendly. The roundabouts are frequently more space efficient and require less land use than typical intersections. Additionally, without the use of traffic lights, municipalities net huge electricity savings which can cost cities up to $10,000 a year.

Even with all these benefits, some researchers say that Americans are generally resistant or hesitant when it comes to roundabouts. In the United States, there is, on average, just one traffic circle per every 1,118 intersections. Compare that with some European countries, like Germany where there is 1 for every 313, or France, where the ratio is 1 to 45.

Some states embrace them more than others, though. Florida has more than 1,200, and states like Washington and Wisconsin each have hundreds.