Implementing this small improvement in traffic saved the city of Carmel, Indiana $125,000 in construction costs, 24,000 gallons of gas driven a year and reduced traffic-related accidents by 80 percent.
The modern stoplight system has been a god send in how it routes traffic and keeps order in a modern society where cars rule the roads. But when the City of Carmel, Indiana replaced literally every stoplight system in its city with roundabouts, the city saved literally hundreds of thousands in construction costs, thousands in gasoline annually thanks to zero idling and most importantly traffic related accidents were reduced by leaps and bounds. According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, “A modern roundabout is a circular intersection where drivers travel counterclockwise around a center island. There are no traffic signals or stop signs in a modern roundabout. Drivers yield at entry to traffic in the roundabout, then enter the intersection and exit at their desired street. ”
The story goes that in 1997 the mayor of Carmel, Indiana at the time, Jim Brainard, constructed the city’s first roundabout after observing how successful they were at moving traffic around in the U.K. In the U.K., there are literally tens of thousands of roundabouts to be found whereas in America there are only about 3,000 or so (but that number is well on its way up.)
According Carmel’s official website, “Since the late 1990’s Carmel has been building and replacing signalized intersections with roundabouts. Carmel now has more than 60 roundabouts, more than any other city in the United States.” And the statistics speak for themselves. In places where roundabouts have been implemented, injury accidents have been reduced by 80 percent and overall the number of accidents has gone down by 40 percent. The entire operation was such a success that the City of Carmel, Indiana was the host of the 2011 National Roundabout Conference.
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The decision to add a roundabout is entirely up to the city and its planners. Oftentimes in areas with heavy traffic (like San Franciso or New York) implementing roundabouts would require heavy construction and a special marketing and informational campaign to get the entire city up to speed. In addition, roundabouts are more suited for less dense traffic situations. But in suburban cities or rural areas, roundabouts just might be the solution to kicking safety up a notch.