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Roundabouts – Not a fan? Ann Arbor drivers tell us how they feel

April 8, 2015 by Steven M. Gursten

Roundabout at South State and Ellsworth Road tallied the most automobile accidents in Michigan last year – and has  Ann Arbor drivers frustrated

Our attorneys recently wrote about the most dangerous intersection in Michigan in 2014. We define “dangerous” as the intersection with the most reported car accidents, according to data released by the Michigan State Police. The rather dubious winner for highest number of crashes is South State and Ellsworth Roads in Ann Arbor near Pittsfield Township. And the culprit behind a huge spike in accidents is a new roundabout at that location.

This Ann Arbor intersection has seen quite a dramatic uptick in car crashes since 2013.   This area ranked No. 11 in 2013 with 61 total car accidents. But that number spiked  in 2014 with a total of 170 car accidents.

Lt. Renea Bush of the Ann Arbor Police Department chalked up a lot of those crashes to the new roundabout. A number of local residents seem to agree.

Our attorneys received a record number of comments (via Facebook and our blog post) from concerned Ann Arbor residents. Most are not fans of the new roundabout. Many people also feel that too many drivers just don’t know how to drive in roundabouts. For the answer on how to drive in a roundabout, here’s my blog post with safety tips on how to drive a roundabout.

Here are some of the comments we received that I thought were particularly interesting:

Dan Gruenewald: It’s because EVERYONE in this state has to be first. It’s all about who is the most aggressive driver. People don’t know how to merge properly and they have to get in front of you. Behind is not an option. I’ve lived all over this country and Michigan drivers are by far the worst. LEARN TO YIELD!!!

Brigette N. Clements: THIS intersection is a COMPLETE FAILURE & it’s NOT due to the drivers that know how to use a roundabout it’s due to the soooo many that DON’T. Just because you know how to drive in a roundabout doesn’t mean you can’t get in an accident at that intersection that’s just ignorant to say. Other drivers that don’t know how to use them by e.g. stopping while in the circle, stopping at the yield when they’re NO cars coming, cars just coming in when they shouldn’t, cars just being “peep” & not going slow during rush hour so that other cars in other directions can enter. Man I REALLY wish this intersection wouldn’t have changed. ROUNDABOUTS NEED TO BE ON DRIVER TESTS IN EVERY STATE THAT IS MAKING THEM. -PERIOD-

Tom Everard: Been though that intersection dozens of times….main issue is drivers STOP at the yield signs instead of only stopping if another car is coming……causing rear end collisions…..

Benedicta: This roundabout allows east and westbound traffic to go straight through in both lanes. When coming up Ellsworth from the west, planning to continue straight east on Ellsworth, I’ve had northbound drivers enter and cut me off because they assumed that since I was in the center lane I would be curling north, even though the signage and pavement markings show the straight-through path for both lanes. I don’t have a lot of experience with roundabouts, but I think it may be the case that in some areas of the country/world, roundabouts have a central lane that only goes around and you have to be in the outer lane to exit. The arrangement on Ellsworth, where there are two entry lanes fed by both lanes of the roundabout seems unusual. It does prevent dangerous backups that would be caused in a single lane by people entering the Speedway station on the southeast corner, though.

A person: I have been driving through this intersection twice a day for ten years. The new roundabout is a huge improvement in traffic flow. Average wait times to get through the intersection went from 3 – 5 minutes to 10 – 20 seconds.

The downside is that bad drivers and people who can’t learn new skills make it a little more dangerous.

Education would help.

However, as a few people pointed out, they also built the roundabout to operate in a non-standard way, which I think was a mistake that contributes to the confusion. It should be that the outer  lane exits at the next roundabout exit.

Bsurg: I drive through this intersection twice a day. When the intersection first went in, I think people didn’t know how to navigate it. Each entry point has clearly marked lane markings: if you’re on the outside lane, you’re allowed to turn right or go straight. If you’re on the inside lane, you can go straight, or take the 3rd exit to go left. I don’t think people paid attention to the signs, or knew when to enter the roundabout, so that resulted in frequent (and minor) collisions. It’s gotten a lot better now, and I for one am thankful that the roundabout is there, because it’s improved the traffic flow dramatically at rush hour.

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