We are a national that loves to try new things.
There’s a new restaurant in town? Let’s eat there tonight.
They just released a new cell phone? Let’s buy one and try the new gadget.
There’s a new movie released Friday? Let’s check it out.
So it stuns us that our area’s drivers have such a negative attitude toward the roundabout at the intersection of Shawnee and Fort Amanda roads in Shawnee Township. It opens as a one-lane roundabout Monday, while crews finish off the second lane in the middle of the intersection before unveiling it as a two-lane roundabout.
Everyone should take a deep breath. If you can drive in a circle, you can drive in a roundabout.
The reality of this roundabout is you keep driving in a counter-clockwise circle until you find which turn you wanted to make. Anyone wanting to get into that circle has to yield to any traffic coming from the left. We’ll simplify it for you:
• If you wanted a traditional right turn, it’s going to be the first right turn.
• If you wanted to keep going straight, it’s the second right turn.
• If you wanted to make a traditional left turn, it’s going to be the third right turn.
• If you wanted to turn around, take that fourth turn, and you’re heading back where you started.
• If you missed your turn, just keep going around the circle until you see it again.
The fear and paranoia we’ve heard about this traffic feature astounds us. Yes, we understand it’s different from the traditional stop sign or stoplight that’s everywhere else in Lima and the region.
That’s also why it’s an improvement.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety — a group that doesn’t want you to have an accident because it costs it more money — found roundabouts safer.
Studies showed intersections converted from traffic signals (which that intersection previously had) or stop signs to roundabouts had a reduction in injury crashes of 72 to 80 percent and reductions in all crashes of 35 to 47 percent, according to three independent studies.
The total number of crashes dropped 35 to 47 percent. These were all in the United States, mind you, and not influenced by some crazy driving-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-road logic.
If you’re honest with yourself, you might not even remember from driver’s education who gets the right-of-way if you’re at a four-way stop and two of you got there at the same time. (The answer is the person on your right, by the way.)
We should also be aware this roundabout isn’t the same as Lima’s Town Square in downtown or an old-school traffic circle.
Roundabouts are smaller than traffic circles, requiring a slower speed. That certainly reduces the chances of high-speed impact. There aren’t any traffic signals either.
Town Square isn’t a roundabout or a traffic signal. It’s an animal all its own, with stop signs on either side of Main Street and a divided road on either side of the circle downtown for Market Street.
Our region’s drivers showed a similar fear when the Ohio Department of Transportation installed medians on state Route 309 on the east and west edges of Lima in the name of safety. Guess what happened? There were fewer accidents.
We’re not saying you should blindly trust everything the government says. Just give the roundabout a fair chance. You just might like it.