Saturday, October 12, 2013
Call it morning driving thru the sound...
So VTRANS plans a new roundabout at an intersection along Ericka's route to/from work. She supports it. As usual, though, there is plenty of vocal resistance to change in a variety of fora in which I'm a member. A pattern has emerged:
Prior research has found that public support increases soon after roundabouts are built and drivers become familiar with them. The purpose of the current study was to measure longer-term changes in public opinion in six communities where stop signs or traffic signals were replaced with roundabouts.
Telephone surveys were conducted approximately 6 weeks before, 6 weeks after, and 1 to 5 years after construction of the roundabouts. The proportion of drivers in favor of roundabouts ranged from 22% to 44% before construction compared with 48% to 67% soon after roundabouts were built and 57% to 87% after roundabouts were in place for at least 1 year. The majority of drivers of all ages favored roundabouts after they were in place for 1 year or more, although support was higher among younger drivers (ages 18 to 34) and lower among older drivers (65 and older).
There were small but nonsignificant differences between the opinions of male and female drivers. Drivers who said the roundabouts improved safety or traffic flow, or both, had more favorable opinions of roundabouts 1 to 5 years after construction. Results indicate that public support continued to increase with time, presumably because drivers became more familiar and comfortable with this form of traffic control.
I've actually researched a lot of the statistical studies, but I'll spare you all that. Here's DOT providing the essential findings of a few:
A 2000 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and several other organizations evaluated 24 intersections in California, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, South Carolina, and Vermont before and after construction of roundabouts. The study revealed a 39-percent decrease in crashes, a 76-percent decrease in injury crashes, and a 90-percent reduction in crashes involving fatal or incapacitating injuries.
A December 2002 study of 15 single-lane roundabouts in Maryland showed a 60-percent decrease in total crash rates, an 82-percent reduction in injury crash rates, a 100-percent decrease in the fatal crash rate, and a 27-percent reduction in property-damage-only (PDO) crash rates.
In addition, a soon-to-be-published study by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program found that the installation of roundabouts led to a 35-percent reduction in total crashes and a 76-percent reduction in crashes causing injuries or fatalities. These are but a few examples of the safety benefits of roundabouts.
There also are operational benefits from roundabouts, such as less delay and increased traffic capacity.
With obvious rational benefits, the only reason I can think of that people don't want traffic calming devices being built is unfamiliarity. My thesis appears to be borne out by the survey data above.
I'd expand the issue of not understanding how things are supposed to work to include an instinct to trust one's own experience and judgement over somebody else's, particularly where the government is concerned.
For example, I have seen myriad people suggest that a particular new roundabout--in a village we frequent just down the road--is a disaster because it doesn't accomodate big trucks. As evidence, a number have noted that the truckers have to drive over the bricks in the center.
[T]ruck aprons are a compromise to accommodate large vehicles in a compact circle while preserving entry path deflection for lighter, faster vehicles. aprons are mountable by trucks but should discourage cars and pedestrians. if the apron is too aesthetic, truck drivers mistake some aprons for landscape area. aprons do not provide deflection as effectively as a full raised island and, in some circumstances, an apron may cause truck stability or under-clearance problems.
So what people without much knowledge of such things see is a failure of design. What's interesting to me is the assumption by these folks that after all the years building roundabouts and studying the intersection and planning and whatnot, VTRANS apparently is too stupid to accomodate trucks that travel down state routes.
They, of course, actually know what they're doing, and it's the un-educated observers who do not. I suspect it will take people a while to get used to these new features, and there might be some truck drivers who need some outreach from the State so they understand how to navigate roundabouts properly. I guess that explains why the popularity of roundabouts rises as we get used to them.
PS--There might be a metaphor for Obamacare in here somewhere.
October 12, 2013 | Permalink
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I think older people are afraid that they will get on the circle and other drives will not let them off, or something like that, where they will their sense of direction and cause an accident. Similar to how my mother feels about the internet — the stuff she knows, fine, but anything beyond that scares her.
Posted by: Marcellina | Oct 12, 2013 6:53:59 PM
I can understand that. I first ran into a roundabout in Canada when I barely had my license. I came from Ohio, where everything was 90 degree angles, and I spent several minutes driving round and round until I figured out how to get onto the right exit.
Posted by: NTodd Pritsky | Oct 12, 2013 7:50:06 PM
"They, of course, actually know what they're doing, and it's the un-educated observers who do not."
Good to hear that. If only one did not get burned so often by assuming that our fellow Americans "know what they're doing"...
Posted by: Snarki, child of Loki | Oct 13, 2013 5:43:33 AM