Don’t be behind the curve on roundabouts

By: Eric Czarnik | C&G Newspapers | Published April 20, 2015

With the right frame of mind, drivers navigating a roundabout in metro Detroit can turn going in circles into a positive experience, according to road and driving safety representatives.

Construction recently began on an upcoming roundabout at 14 Mile Road at Orchard Lake Road at the border of West Bloomfield and Farmington Hills, according to Craig Bryson, spokesman for the Road Commission for Oakland County. The RCOC expects the project to be finished this autumn.

Bryson said the upcoming roundabout will be the 21st in Oakland County on Road Commission roads. Another five roundabouts are on city streets, he said.

“That’s the highest concentration of roundabouts in any county in the state,” he said.

Bryson said roundabouts serve a few beneficial purposes. He said statistics show that they can greatly reduce traffic fatalities and can help traffic flow more quickly than signaled intersections.

However, he said some drivers have to adjust to navigating through a roundabout.

“In some parts of the county, people are pretty familiar with them,” he said. “In other parts of the county where there aren’t as many … there is a continuous learning curve for some drivers in the county.”

In a roundabout, drivers slowly enter and move counterclockwise into a circular path around an island.

The Michigan Department of Transportation says that drivers entering a roundabout should first glance to the left for approaching traffic and yield to any that exists. Drivers must also follow posted speed limits and watch out for pedestrians walking at crosswalks.

According to Susan Hiltz, AAA Michigan public affairs director, drivers should pay close attention to signage and arrows to determine which roundabout lane will take them to their correct exit.

She also said roundabouts are often a little unique, so drivers need to be especially alert when encountering a new one.

“I think the most important thing to do is be a little more cautious, especially if you’re approaching a roundabout you’re not familiar with,” she said.

“I think the biggest ways to take advantage with the good parts of roundabouts is to familiarize yourself with it … (and) exert a little bit of caution and patience when you’re entering the roundabout.”

Road officials say drivers in a roundabout should stay in motion unless stopping is the only way to prevent a crash. According to MDOT, drivers should not pass or change lanes within the circle. When exiting, drivers should activate their turn signal. Missing the desired exit may mean that the driver has to take another lap in the loop.

Bryson urged drivers to pick their lane in advance, before they get to the roundabout. 

“Get in your lane and stay there,” he said. “The few problems we see is when people are not paying attention to the lanes in the roundabout and switch lanes.”

Learn more about the Road Commission for Oakland County by visiting www.rcocweb.org or by calling (248) 645-2000. Find out more about AAA Michigan by visiting www.michigan.aaa.com.