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TGIF … OMG! Weekend begins with a bang at roundabout

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Traffic has been flowing more smoothly past the Walmart at Randleman, North Carolina, in the past year, with the help of the roundabout intersection.

That probably didn’t seem like much of a bargain to these shoppers on Friday.

Photo/Egerton Law

Drivers and passengers wait after an accident at the exit into the roundabout at the Deep River Shopping Center in Randleman, N.C., on Friday afternoon.

We certainly hope that no one was hurt in this fender-bender, where it looks like one car bounced onto the bumper of another at the exit of the Deep River Shopping Center. But at least it was not a right-angle, high-speed crash, the kind commonly known as a “T-bone.”

And that seems to be the deal that’s made when the old X-crossing intersections are swapped out for these new O-shaped ones – less severe accidents happen instead of serious wrecks.

We took a look at these intersections in this blog back in January (Randleman has three roundabouts on this road, right in a row). They had been completed in June 2011, and drivers were still learning to navigate the turns – and when to take their turns.

As drivers approach a roundabout, they have to choose when to wait, and when it’s clear to go. “At lot of them are not used to having to make a decision,” a traffic engineer told Fox 8 News. “The signal used to make the decision for them.”

At the largest roundabout in Randleman, the double-lane one up the street at the intersection of High Point and Academy streets, there were 18 collisions in the eight months after the roundabout opened. In the eight months prior, there were 11.

Photo/Egerton Law

Drivers have found the larger, two-lane roundabout in Randleman more difficult to negotiate.

"No accident is ever good – but accidents now are low-speed,” the town’s police chief said then. When traffic had been regulated by a stoplight, “you could be T-boned at a pretty good clip and have serious injuries.”

At that point, there had been no accidents at the Walmart roundabout. Luck, of course, ran out on Friday.

Still, reports I’ve heard say traffic has been rolling more easily through that part of town as drivers have caught on to the ins and outs of the roundabouts. One driver says he knows he has to be more watchful of other vehicles there, but all in all, driving that section is a lot less stressful because traffic doesn’t get nearly as backed up at busy times: early morning, late afternoon and when the traffic from two schools cranks up. As the chief said, “It’s amazing to watch people maneuver through it when they do it the proper way.”

Photo/Egerton Law

At peak times, traffic used to come to a standstill from beyond the entrance of the Walmart shopping center to Tigers Den Road, which goes to Randleman High School and Randleman Middle School.

When you encounter these intersections as you drive, these are some guidelines to remember:

  • Slow down.
  • If there’s more than one lane, use the left lane to turn left, the right lane to turn right, and all lanes to go through, unless directed otherwise by signs and pavement markings.
  • Yield to pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Yield at the entry to circulating traffic.
  • Stay in your lane within the roundabout and use your right-turn signal to indicate your intention to exit.
  • Always assume trucks need all available space — don’t pass them.
  • Clear the roundabout to allow emergency vehicles to pass.
  • And finally, keep an eye on the vehicles around you. Always expect the other driver to make a mistake, and you stand a good chance of being able to react and prevent an accident.

On a final note, the photographer who took this picture from his car with his iPhone assured me he was safely stopped when he snapped it. Talking and driving is bad enough, texting and driving is terrible, and taking pictures while in motion would simply be a recipe for mayhem.

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  1. June says:
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    Roundabouts near the middle and high school is a big safety concern. hopefully students will see this blog and proceed with caution!