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MythBusters tackle roundabout versus 4-way stop

July 19, 2014 by Steven M. Gursten

Which is more effective at moving cars through an intersection?

There’s a myth that roundabouts are a more effective way to move cars through an intersection. Are they really a triumph of efficiency compared to the good old, four-way stop?

The MythBusters put it to the test:

For those of you who aren’t familiar, MythBusters is a science entertainment TV program on Discovery, staring special effects experts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage. It’s a fun and interesting show.

To test, the MythBusters marked out a four-way intersection with traffic barriers. They timed the cars driving through the intersections, counting each car that makes it safely through.

Then they marked a roundabout with traffic barriers. They counted each car as it exited the roundabout.

The MythBusters found an average of 385 four-way stop intersection crossings in 15 minutes. The roundabout allowed an average of 460 cars to pass through it in 15 minutes.

The results: The roundabout had nearly 20% more cars pass through it than the 4-way stop.

I guess roundabouts work after all. And even though people often say roundabouts cause a lot of car accidents, as an auto accident attorney, I know from first-hand experience that I’ve helped far more people who were hurt as a result of motor vehicle crashes at 4-way stops than I have from roundabouts in my own legal career.

The Mythbusters episode did not explore safety and auto accident prevention in this segment, but this is another important reason to favor roundabouts over 4-way stops.

At the conclusion of the episode, the Mythbusters urged Americans to adopt this system. But roundabouts are becoming more prevalent as busy cities upgrade their roads to adapt to the increased infrastructure.

People are often skittish about the unfamiliar, and driving through the roundabout’s circular intersection design is one reason why many people feel more comfortable with older traffic designs. But skittishness with the unfamiliar is not a reason to avoid improving roads.

Or making roads safer.

Here’s a blog post I wrote about how to safely drive through a roundabout.

As I’ve said before, roundabouts can be great and prevent car accidents – if people know how to use them correctly. Roundabouts work on one simple principle: Drivers must yield the right of way to vehicles already in the roundabout before entering.

And studies show that roundabouts have been shown to reduce car accidents: In a 2001 report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IISH), all crashes in roundabout conversions of 23 U.S. intersections were reduced by 39%. Serious injury crashes were reduced by 76 percent and serious injury/fatal crashes were reduced by 89 percent.

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