• Roundabouts

Carte Blanche - Moves toward real improvements in Traffic Safety

Jim Kenzie By: Jim Kenzie November 4, 2020
Comments

Far be it for a lowly freelancer to question the wisdom of the Star’s editorial writers.

But you’d think when they have someone with an engineering degree and years of advanced driver training at their beck and call – yes, that’d be me – they might take advantage of that.

I apologize that the editorial in question was some months ago. July 6, 2020, if you must know.

The headline was “Crack down on speeders.

Few could take issue with that.

But by the second paragraph, whoever wrote this editorial had already shown their inexperience of how traffic works. The story complains that many drivers don’t come to a full stop at an intersection with a stop sign.Yes, people who do so are breaking the letter of our law.

But if they are doing it correctly, these “scofflaws” are also reducing the frequency of fender-benders, hence improving traffic flow, saving money on repairs, saving fuel, and reducing emissions.

Safer? More efficient? Cheaper? Use fewer fossil fuels? Reducing pollution? Who could have issues with any of that?

Drivers who have travelled know that England has collectively the best drivers in the world. Germany is close, but the Brits are the best. One of the reasons for that – along with proper driver training, for starters – is their road design.

Roundabouts control the vast majority of major junctions, one of the most intelligent forms of traffic management yet invented. If people can figure our roundabouts, they know how to drive.

If our drivers cannot, is this an admission that the Brits are smarter than we are?

Sorry. I don’t buy that. Their road designers are smarter than ours though.

I’ve been on this hobbyhorse before, but it clearly needs repeating. We have had pockets of success with roundabouts in some jurisdictions here – Waterloo region for example.

There are even a few here in Halton Region, and a handful within the GTA. But every time a new intersection is built here and it’s not a roundabout, I want to lead a protest march to the relevant City Hall. Even in the semi-deep southern U.S., Nashville, Tennessee has a lot of roundabouts. You’d think those Jeff Foxworthy rednecks would rebel against a funny “furrin” concept like this.

Roundabouts

But they work a treat there, as they do everywhere. Reductions in collisions in the 70 per cent range are the norm.

Sure, they take some getting used to for newbies. But that doesn’t take long. Another of the reasons the Brits are such good drivers is that you can just about count the number of stop signs in that country on the thumbs of one hand.

Almost all non-roundabout intersections, if they are marked at all, have “Yield” signs.

Which mean what they do everywhere:

– approach with caution.

– nobody coming? Ease slowly through the “junction”.

– and keep going.

No need to come to a full stop; just carry on. Traffic moves faster, more safely. Yes, you put responsibility in the drivers’ hands, and the respond properly. If we had roundabouts everywhere here, I’m sure every one of us could get used to the extra time at home with our loved ones. Not to mention the extra cash we’d have in our jeans since our insurance premiums hadn’t gone up because we haven’t been involved in as many of those stop-sign-caused crashes. And add the fuel savings and pollution reduction on top of that.

Roundabouts are as close to a slam-dunk as any civic issue can be.

 

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