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What Michigan roundabouts had the most car accidents in 2015?

May 9, 2016 by Steven M. Gursten

Our attorneys’ top 10 list of the roundabouts that hosted the most wrecks, according to the Michigan State Police

Do roundabouts cause more car accidents or do they make us safe?

As an attorney who writes a blog about traffic safety and Michigan’s auto laws, I’ve found that people have some very strong opinions on the safety of roundabouts. Some drivers have even called them “circles of death,” while others wish we could install more of them.  But one thing is certain: no matter what your experience or opinion is about roundabouts, they’re here to stay.

With more than 100 roundabouts already in Michigan, and more than 20 new ones planned for 2016 and 2017, we’re all going to be coming increasingly in contact with these controversial traffic circles in our travels.

But which roundabouts have seen the most car accidents? To help answer this question, our attorneys have analyzed and identified which roundabouts have had the most reported car crashes in 2015. We worked with and would like to thank the Michigan State Police Traffic Crash Reporting Unit, which collects motor vehicle accident reports from local law enforcement.

Michigan Auto Law

Our attorneys’ top 10 list of roundabouts with the most car accidents in 2015

Rank Intersection Total Crashes
1 M-5/Martin Parkway and Pontiac Trail
Commerce Township, Oakland County
2 Van Dyke Avenue (M-53) @ 18 ½ Mile Road
Sterling Heights, Macomb County
3 State Street and Ellsworth Road
Ann Arbor/Pittsfield Township, Washtenaw County
4 Maple Road and Farmington Road
West Bloomfield Township, Oakland County
5 14 Mile Road and Farmington Road
West Bloomfield/Farmington Hills, Oakland County
6 Maple Road and Drake Road
West Bloomfield Township, Oakland County
7 Lee Road and Whitmore Lake Road*
Brighton/Green Oak Township, Livingston County
8 Martin Parkway and Oakley Park Road
Commerce Township, Oakland County
9 Hamlin Road and Livernois Road
Rochester Hills, Oakland County
10 Romeo Plank Road and 19 Mile Road
Clinton Township, Macomb County

*Lee Road and Whitmore Lake Road includes data only for the roundabout at this intersection – not the two roundabouts at the on/off ramps for US-23.

Source: Michigan State Police Traffic Crash Reporting Unit

Note: 2015 data is still considered preliminary and includes any accident that occurred within 250 feet of a roundabout that’s part of a public road. Roundabouts constructed in 2015 are not included on this list until a full year of data is available.

But roundabouts are safer than traditional intersections

As an accident attorney, I feel it’s always important to note that while some of the roundabout intersections on this list have a very high number of car crashes reported, this does not translate into a high number of reported serious injuries. In fact, the entire point of roundabouts is to lessen the collision forces so that drivers involved in a car accident will hopefully not be seriously injured. And it should be noted that of all the crashes reported and analyzed, there were thankfully zero fatalities. By reducing the number and severity of conflict points, and because of the lower speeds of motor vehicles moving through the intersection, roundabouts are a significantly safer type of intersection.

Drivers may not like them. And as people still adjust to them, they may be causing a high number of car accidents. But the science behind roundabouts is to both expedite traffic and save lives.

No. 1: Pontiac Trail and M-5/Martin Parkway – Commerce Township

As reported widely in January by local media, this roundabout had the highest overall number of automobile accidents last year in the state of any type of intersection, including traffic lights. As we’ve seen over the years, areas with high traffic volumes inherently see higher crash volumes than less busy intersections.

This intersection also saw a significant increase in traffic volume in 2015, while neighboring Haggerty Road was closed all summer from Pontiac Trail to Richardson Road for construction. This resulted in considerably heavier traffic, as vehicles used the M-5 roundabout as a detour.

When you look at the past two years, where the average annual number of crashes for this intersection was 101, our traffic attorneys hope that 2015 was simply an unusual year and 2016 will return to lower levels. There were only 18 overall injuries for this roundabout – a much lower portion of overall accidents than what occurs at traditional traffic light intersections.

No 2: Van Dyke Avenue (M-53) and 18 1/2 Mile Road – Sterling Heights

Second on the list is a congested area where M-53/Van Dyke traffic is exiting onto the roundabout near the Ford Van Dyke plant. Once again though, we saw just 18 injuries – a much lower percent of total crashes versus the 29% average we see for traditional intersections statewide.

No. 3: State Street and Ellsworth Road – Ann Arbor/Pittsfield Township

Converted in the fall of 2013 to a roundabout, this intersection held the No. 1 spot in 2014 for total crashes in the state. It also got a lot of media coverage for having such a big increase in accidents in 2014. It appears drivers have gotten more comfortable navigating this new type of intersection where there were only three reported injuries in 2015 and much lower volume of 114 overall car accidents, compared to 171 back in 2014.

No. 4: Maple Road and Farmington Road – West Bloomfield Township

This congested area along Maple Road had 84 crashes in 2015 with just 14 of them resulting in injuries. This is a slight increase from the 77 crashes that occurred there in 2014. It’s possible there was an increase in traffic through this area as people were avoiding construction backups on Orchard Lake Road.

No. 5: 14 Mile Road and Farmington Road – Farmington Hills/West Bloomfield

Another roundabout that was likely affected by construction in 2015 is this intersection close to busy shopping areas. For most of the summer of 2015, drivers likely used Farmington Road as a detour route when Orchard Lake at 14 Mile Road was closed for the construction of another new roundabout. With an increase in traffic, likely came an increase in accidents, as they spiked from 56 in 2014 to 79 in 2015.

As our lawyers see with intersection data, larger populations equal more traffic which, typically results in more overall car crashes. This likely explains why all of the top 10 roundabouts on the list occur in southeast Michigan counties.

Our thoughts for future Michigan roundabouts

We anticipate that this list will change considerably for 2016 car accidents, as four new roundabouts built in 2015 near heavily populated areas will likely see a temporary increase in crashes as drivers get acclimated to navigating them. While short-term increases in auto accidents is an unfortunate side effect of new roundabouts, in the long term, auto safety and traffic flow are both improving.

If you’d like to see where all existing and proposed roundabouts are located in Michigan, Michigan Auto Law created a Roundabout Resource Center with an interactive map of roundabouts, as well as safety tips for drivers.

We’d like to hear from you: Do you drive through any of these roundabouts in your daily commute? Have you driven through any of the new roundabouts that were completed in the fall of 2015? Tell us what you think about these new intersection formats.

And please check back often, as we continue our blog series on 2015 high crash intersections by county and larger cities throughout Michigan this spring and summer.

Visit our Michigan Dangerous Intersections page for a complete list of intersection car crashes that can be searched by any Michigan city or county, and our list of Michigan’s 2016 Top 20 Most Dangerous Intersections.

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