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The Villages
Friday, August 19, 2022

Safety concerns about roundabouts in The Villages

To the Editor:

On May 19, Villages-News.com published an article titled “CDD 7 to ask for signage offering directional clarity in roundabouts.” Unfortunately, directional signage on roundabouts is the least of our worries concerning roundabout safety. I believe those responsible for the design of The Villages roundabouts themselves did a marvelous job making them similar enough so one set of basic rules or guidelines can apply to all of them. However, I have grave concerns about the inadequate driving plan that has been implemented. That includes what the Federal DOT has mandated and what our local “brain trust” has implemented.
The comments of two of our friends we met in The Villages, exemplifies my concern. They were both high school teachers. He taught drivers’ education his whole career and was the football coach. He told me that he had no idea how he should be driving on The Villages roundabouts. His wife Ellie had some bad experiences on them and was afraid to drive on them.
Those responsible for the designing driving protocol, signage and road markings claim the driving plan is adequate since statistics show that villages roundabouts have fewer and less serious accidents than signaled intersections in the area. They are correct on that assertion, but that doesn’t mean that the driving guidelines are adequate. I believe that the roundabouts inherently are so much safer than signaled intersections that even with a flawed driving plan, they are still safer.
The most critical area where most accidents occur and also where they are the most serious is where the inner lane of the main road exits the roundabout. Those vehicles exiting from the inside lane definitely have the right-of-way since both lanes of the main road need to flow straight through the roundabout or it doesn’t make sense to have a two-lane roundabout. The problem is that some vehicles that enter the roundabout from the outside lane continue around the roundabout in the outside lane rather than exiting. That sets up a natural and unexpected collision. In addition, vehicles that enter the roundabout on the outside lane from the crossroad and don’t exit immediately, are also on a collision course with those exiting the from the inner lane. The schematic signage at the entry of the main roads does address the proper lanes to be in and options for exiting; however, it is insufficient for several reasons.
One of the major issues is that the driving plan designers treat roundabouts as something unique and don’t employ intersection pavement markings that drivers already understand from driving on multi-lane road intersections. Roundabouts need to be treated as similar to intersections close together on a curved road. All drivers are familiar with pavement marking arrows at intersections of multi-lane roads. The arrows always tell the driver what he can do in respect to the lane he is in. The markings are just before or at the intersection and only apply to that intersection no matter how close the next intersection is.
Ideally, the only pavement marking arrows should be at intersections and nowhere else. Unfortunately, the Federal DOT has mandated road marking arrows that are placed between exits and have the opposite meaning as those on the road before entering the roundabout and all other road marking arrows at multi-lane intersections. The mandated arrows on the inside lane of the roundabout indicate a vehicle can turn left or proceed straight ahead. If those are interpreted the same as all other pavement arrows, it means that the driver can either turn over the curb into the center island or proceed around the roundabout inside lane forever being unable to exit. I believe those DOT people think we need help to know that we can proceed around the roundabout.
In the past, the signs displayed at the entrances to roundabouts on the main roads were not replicated on the crossroads. Although, in the past, they didn’t take the necessary steps to prevent collisions where the vehicles on the inside lane of the main road exits, now they are replicating those signs on the crossroads and thus are prescribing two vehicles coming from perpendicular directions have the right-a-way in the same space. This is analogous to having a signal light green for vehicles coming from perpendicular directions. It is insanity!
In addition to appropriate road marking arrows providing options for drivers on both the main and crossroads, a yellow crosshatched area needs to be placed on the outside lane just past where the main road inside lane exits., If necessary, vertical posts can be placed in addition to the crosshatched area If drivers are not respecting the non-driving area. This also helps prevent accidents at the crossroad exits since only one lane of vehicles would be approaching the exit.
The only other main source of accidents is drivers entering the roundabouts not yielding to vehicles on the roundabout. One cause of that is not yielding to vehicles in both lanes which is somewhat understandable. When we make right hand turns onto multi-lane roads, we generally only worry about vehicles in the near lane. If that lane is open, we can generally proceed. However, that is a problem on roundabouts since most of the vehicles are exiting. What we need to do is to add following verbiage below the yield signs. “TO BOTH LANES.”
If you are in a position of influence; a commissioner, administrator, news media executive or a police officer etc., perhaps you can help make our roundabouts safer and comfortable for all to drive on by getting involved so needed improvements will be approved.

Bill Nitardy
Village of Sunset Pointe

 

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