Roundabouts Saving Lives
If you picked up a newspaper in Milwaukee in the past month, you would think that roundabouts were a danger to society. Headlines have ranged from “Are roundabouts dangerous? So far, yes” to “Roundabouts take off but still throw drivers a curve.” You would have missed a critical point though, roundabouts are improving safety for those on the roads.
What roundabout is drawing the most ire in the region? Perhaps the first one built in Milwaukee at the south end of the Sixth Street Viaduct? Nope, cars, buses, and trucks sail through that roundabout smoothly. The one at Canal and 25th in the Menomonee Valley after Brewer games? No post-game traffic jams there.
The most hated roundabout in the area lies at the Moorland Road off-ramps on Interstate 43 in New Berlin. The numbers don’t lie, there have been more car accidents at that intersection since the roundabout was implemented.
With 49 crashes at the I-43 and Moorland/Rock Ridge roads roundabout since it opened in November 2007 while still under construction, it’s not a stretch to say things got off to a bumpy start.
The old freeway intersection had 29 crashes in nearly eight years before the roundabout, according to New Berlin Police Chief Joseph Rieder. And the Moorland-Rock Ridge roads intersection had 13 crashes between June 2002 and November 2007.
Why have there been more accidents? The most likely reason is the intersection was under construction during a significant portion of that time. Second, and something for which data isn’t readily available, a number of people are likely being introduced to roundabouts for the first time. It would be interesting to see how many of the 49 crashes involved a first-time roundabout driver.
How? Well that’s the simple and thankfully repeatable part, roundabouts work by moving all of the cars in the same direction, eliminating the dangerous t-bone crash.
So while the new roundabout has necessitated the need for a few bumpers to be touched up, it’s eliminated numerous trips to the doctor. And it’s likely the need for bumper repair will fade with time as drivers become more accustomed to the intersections.
Despite NIMBY opposition in suburbs and urban neighborhoods alike, it’s clear roundabouts are an effective way to improve intersection safety for drivers.