Roundabouts, or traffic circles, have been popular in Europe for many years, and they are becoming increasingly common at intersections in the United States too. Unfortunately, not all drivers understand how to use them—causing serious vehicle accidents.

Roundabouts reduce accidents and traffic congestion. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), there are 35% fewer accidents in traffic circles than traditional intersections which has resulted in a 90% decrease in fatalities and a 75% decrease in injuries nationwide.

How Unsafe Drivers Cause Crashes in Traffic Circles

One of the benefits of roundabouts is that they eliminate head-on and high-speed right angle collisions, since all drivers are going in the same direction. However, motorists can still cause accidents by engaging in these unsafe practices:

  • Speeding. It is important to reduce speed when approaching a traffic circle and while in it. People must yield to other drivers in the roundabout, and if a driver is speeding, he may not have sufficient time to slow down.
  • Not using the proper lane. It is critical to obey the roadside signs there to guide drivers—especially when the circle has more than one lane. These signs tell the driver how to get out of the circle and what lane to use. When these important instructions aren’t followed, an accident can occur.
  • Stopping while in the circle. Roundabouts are designed so that traffic within the circle continuously moves. It is dangerous to stop once in the circle, unless absolutely necessary to avoid a crash.
  • Not yielding to pedestrians and bicyclists. Drivers share the roundabouts with pedestrians and bicyclists. It is critical that drivers watch out for them to avoid a serious accident.
  • Not yielding to traffic in the circle. When entering the roundabout, the driver must yield to vehicles already in the circle. Failing to do so will result in a collision.
  • Changing lanes or not using a turn signal to exit the circle. Unless a driver needs to get into the other lane to exit the traffic circle, he needs to stay in his lane. If it is safer, the driver should get off at the wrong exit or go around again rather than change lanes.
  • Not giving trucks or other large vehicles sufficient space or trying to pass them. Drivers need to assume that trucks and large vehicles need more space in the roundabout to maneuver. It is extremely dangerous to try to pass them.
  • Not clearing the roadway for emergency vehicles. This can cause accidents when the emergency vehicle cannot navigate through the circle quickly.

Accidents tend to be less serious in traffic circles due to the slower speeds, but they still occur. Fortunately, an injured victim may be able to recover compensation from the driver who caused his accident.

Were you or a family member hit in a roundabout or in another accident where the other driver was at fault? To learn more about your legal options, start an online chat.


Peter Steinberg
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Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Since 1982