By Mason Pendleton
Carmel, Indiana has over 100 roundabouts, more than any city in the United States. According to the official government of Carmel website, they’ve been reconstructing intersections across the state to roundabouts since 1990. Roundabouts have been used in Europe for many years and have now made their way over to America.
According to the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), in 2014 around 2,000 roundabouts replaced four way stops across America. At Whiteland Community High School, there is a simple one-lane roundabout in the parking lot and Dean of Students David Bechinski believes the roundabout has been here for about “six or seven years.”
“Part of the equation was that back road isn’t actually the school’s road,” Bechinski said. “With the development that was going to be coming with Taco Bell and all of the other businesses that are now there. You add that to a morning where kids are coming on the property or an afternoon where kids are leaving the property, a four way stop just didn’t make any sense.”
According to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSTD), 63 percent of people said that they liked roundabouts because of their slow speeds and their smaller sizes. The AARP states that roundabouts take up only about 80 feet in diameter, minimum. That’s approximately the size of two classrooms in Whiteland (across from each other, respectively). Their suggested speeds also force oncoming traffic to slow down in order to drive in them; the WSTD suggests a speed of 15-20 miles, depending on the sign in front of each entrance.
“I think it’s helped out a lot,” Bechinski said. “We had backups, from 31 into the parking lot, and we had backups from the water tower down by the softball entrance fields all the way back to that intersection.”
Even if the survey from WSTD claims that 63 percent of people enjoy roundabouts, there is still 15 percent of people that are unsure about these changes in intersections. While Britain has had roundabout intersections since the 1960s, roundabouts in America were built 30 years later. That means anyone who learned to drive before 1990 in America may or may not be completely familiar with roundabouts due to the fact they simply weren’t around for lessons on roundabouts. Junior Lydia Collier has been driving for a year and a half and still isn’t 100 percent sure how they work.
“I don’t particularly like them because there’s so much confusion sometimes,” Collier said, “The more I drive, the more I’ll get used to them.”
The Indiana Department of Transportation describes the best way to drive through a roundabout safely. Roundabouts are fairly simple; they work like a regular turn, so you stay to the right of your lane. If it’s a two-lane roundabout, the far left takes the inner lane, and the far right stays on the outer lane. You then follow a counterclockwise rotation around the circle. Roundabouts are not stops; they’re yields. Yielding is an action where a car waits for the car that has the right of way and then goes. The car inside the circle always has the right of way; when they’ve passed and it’s safe to go, go ahead.
“Just really watch, and if you have questions just ask people, obviously,” Collier said. “But if you’re ever confused, just wait for an opening and go.”
Among the “more planned” roundabouts, Greenwood is currently adding the new “Teacup” roundabout being put in Smith Valley Road. As the name suggests, A Teacup is a U-turn road like you’d see on an interstate.