The many benefits of roundabouts

Posted in: Highways

SONY DSCIn the correct application, roundabouts provide a myriad of benefits to roadway users. It’s easy for the public to be detracted from the fundamental improvements that roundabouts provide. New and vastly different from the intersections that we’ve been using for decades, roundabouts present a departure from how traditional intersections operate. In an age of technology, roundabouts put the control back in the hands of motorists. Using a roundabout is surprisingly simple: drivers yield at the entry, selecting a suitable gap in traffic, then proceed slowly to their destination.

Traffic flow

From an engineering standpoint, inserting a raised circular island in an intersection makes sense. Traffic lights force drivers to come to a full stop. This causes delay and congestion, something engineers try to avoid. Yet roundabouts allow traffic to continuously move at consistent speeds. With minimized stops, vehicles can seamlessly integrate into the traffic flow.


Roundabouts also have many safety benefits. With drivers reducing speed while approaching an intersection and moving in the same direction, severe and fatal crashes can be reduced by up to 90%. The same benefits apply to pedestrians. Roundabouts create fewer points of contact between vehicles and pedestrians. Vehicles are also more likely to slow down as opposed to crossing through a traffic signal intersection at full speed.


With public interest in environmental benefits at an all-time high, roundabouts are an eco-friendly alternative compared to traffic signals. Moving a vehicle from a full stop at a traffic light takes a tremendous amount of energy.  This burns unnecessary fuel and harms the environment. Allowing cars to keep moving through an intersection reduces the amount of harmful emissions. In effect, this boosts fuel efficiency in vehicles. Roundabouts make more efficient use of pavement, resulting in less roadway surface than signalized intersections. This reduces construction and long-term maintenance costs. Finally, roundabouts are aesthetically pleasing. Plants, trees and other enhancements in the center of the roundabout will create visual appeal to any locality.

While most drivers are accustomed to stoplights at their intersections, seeing a roundabout might appear confusing and difficult at first. Many drivers, though, are finding that roundabouts save time and money, and are incredibly simple to navigate.

Troy Pankratz, PE

About the Author

Troy Pankratz, P.E., has designed hundreds of roundabouts across the country using his expertise in intersection geometry to produce designs that elevate his clients’ investment. He absorbs the details of a project’s objectives, so he can work to develop ideal solutions. Troy finds educating and informing project stakeholders about innovative intersections particularly rewarding.

Read more posts by Troy Pankratz, PE

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