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What’s the Deal with Roundabouts in Washington?

By Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. on January 3, 2019

More and more states across the U.S. have been adding roundabouts to ease the flow of traffic. Washington State has been building roundabouts since 1997 and has an estimated 120, with plans to build more in Pacific, Skagit, Snohomish, Spokane, and Whatcom counties, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

As experienced car accident lawyers in Seattle, the team at Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. is familiar with roundabouts, but understands that other residents and visitors may not be. Why are these circular roads with various entrances and exits such a big deal? Aren’t they confusing? Don’t they take up a lot of space? Do they really improve the flow of traffic?

The truth is, if roundabouts are designed and built correctly, they are actually beneficial to alleviating congestion and improving overall traffic flow. Below are some main points to uncover the mystery of roundabouts and why DOTs across the country are making use of them.

How Do Roundabouts Work?

A roundabout is referred to as such because it takes you “around” a circular multi-way intersection and is intended to replace the traditional traffic signal or stop sign intersection. They do not necessarily require more space than a traditional intersection.

Modern roundabouts in the U.S. have vehicles moving in a counterclockwise direction around a raised center island, where entering traffic must yield the right-of-way to circulating traffic. The idea is that traffic is deflected around the island, but always moving, while vehicles enter and exit according to their destinations. An image displaying common roundabout maneuvers may be found on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Are Roundabouts Safer?

According to IIHS, the most common types of car accidents in traditional intersections are left-turn, right-angle, and head-on crashes. These types of crashes are not possible with a well-designed roundabout because it eliminates those directions of movement. Likewise, without traffic signals, drivers will not be rushing to catch the green light, which decreases incident rates for rear-end collisions. A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) showed a nearly 40% reduction in all traffic accidents in roundabouts, and an 80% reduction in injury accidents.

Roundabouts are also considered safer for pedestrians, because they would only have to cross the road one direction of traffic at a time. Until then, they walk around the perimeter sidewalk.

Roundabouts are not crash-free, however. You are more likely to experience one or more of the following types of crashes in a roundabout:

  • Sideswiped by a motorist accelerating too fast
  • Run off the road by another motorist who fails to yield
  • Rear-ended by another motorist failing to stop
  • Entering/circulating collisions

What Should You Do After an Accident at a Roundabout Intersection?

There are presently 120 roundabouts located across Washington highways, which means there is a good chance you have encountered one or two in your travels. There is also a very good chance you have experienced an accident in one of these new additions to our roads.

If you or a loved one was injured in such a traffic collision, you may be able to seek compensation through a personal injury claim. The financial compensation you are eligible for will depend on the level of negligence involved in your accident and how bad your injuries are. If you were rear-ended entering a roundabout and that accident caused a chain-reaction collision, inflicting serious harm on a number of people, you could be able to collect a large sum. But everything depends on the specifics of your case.

Most damages fall into two distinct categories:

  • Economic damages cover the hard costs of your collision, like vehicle repairs, hospital bills, and lost wages.
  • Noneconomic damages cover the intangibles like pain, suffering, and mental anguish.

Roundabouts may seem confusing, but they definitely have benefits, easing traffic congestion and reducing some accident risks. But drivers still need to be careful and follow all road markings and right-of-way laws to avoid a collision. Likewise, being distracted while entering, circulating, or exiting a roundabout can have disastrous consequences.

Call Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. to schedule a case consultation with a member of our Seattle personal injury team. We can explore your legal options in detail and help you make an informed decision. Dial (888) 228-3860 and speak with one of our representatives today.

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