Dear Crabby, What’s the Deal with Roundabouts?

Dear Crabby,

Years ago I visited England for work and had my first exposure to roundabouts. I remember being so thankful that my guide was doing the driving and not me, and that we didn’t have these silly things in the United States. Fast-forward to the present and roundabouts are popping up all over Oakland County! They’re supposed to ease congestion, but all I see are a lot of angry motorists. What do you think about them?

Thanks, Driving in Circles

Dear Driving in Circles,

You’re telling me. Oakland County currently has the most roundabouts with 24 and the one at Tienken and Livernois Roads should be opening up sometime in November. Anytime I think of roundabouts I remember that silly Chevy Chase movie where he and his wacky family go on vacation in Europe and get stuck going round and round one and he keeps saying, ‘Hey look kids, there’s Big Ben.’ DearCrabby

Like you said, roundabouts are supposed to keep traffic moving… and supposedly decrease the chance for accidents because they force people to slow down and pay more attention to what’s going on. Unfortunately, I have witnessed far too many near misses going around these darn things. In fact, Mrs. Crabby and I were almost involved in an accident the other day. We were minding our business; coming home after yet another ‘exciting’ shopping trip to Target and entered the roundabout at Hamlin Road. We’re going around like you’re suppose to when all of a sudden an old geezer in a big late-model Cadillac put his pedal to the floor and came toward the circle without even checking to see if traffic was clear! So I did the one thing they tell you not to do—I hit my brakes in mid turn. If I hadn’t, we definitely would have hit him. Of course he didn’t have a clue that he was the person who almost caused the accident and looked at the missus and me like we were the crazy drivers! This particular roundabout has been open for four years, so you would think people would have caught onto how to use them by now, but I guess the learning curve is too steep for some people.

I grew up in the 50s during the days of cruising Woodward. There was nothing quite like pulling up to a red light and looking over at driver in the next lane and revving your engine to gage if you could beat him coming off the line when the light turned green. Not that I condone reckless driving (just in case Mrs. Crabby is reading this) but it was a rite of passage during my teenage years growing up in the Motor City and one that can’t be duplicated at a roundabout.

The bottom line is that roundabouts—traffic circles—whatever you want to call them are here to stay. So, I guess we all need to be patient with the learning process, each other, and pay better attention. And make sure you have really good collision insurance.

Sincerely, Dear Crabby

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  1. Scott Batson says

    And now for some facts.
    Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world. Visit for modern roundabout FAQs and safety facts. Modern roundabouts, and the pedestrian refuge islands approaching them, are two of nine proven safety measures identified by the FHWA,
    The FHWA has a video about modern roundabouts that is mostly accurate (
    The safety comes from the ‘slow and go’ operation instead of the ‘stop or go fast’ way a stop light works. The smaller size of properly designed modern roundabouts is what makes them safer and keeps speeds in the 20 mph range. This makes it much easier to avoid a crash or stop for pedestrians. It also means that if a crash happens the likelihood of injury is very low. Safety is the #1 reason there are over 3,500 modern roundabouts in the US today and many more on the way.
    Here’s a quote:
    “By 2025, a quarter of all drivers in the United States will be over the age of 65. Intersections are the single most dangerous traffic environment for drivers of any age with left-hand turns being the single most dangerous traffic maneuver that any of us can make. Forty percent of all crashes that involve drivers over the age of 65 occur at intersections. This is nearly twice the rate of experienced younger drivers. AARP would like to see more roundabouts constructed because of the many safety benefits that they present for drivers of all ages.” – Jana Lynott, AARP Public Policy Institute

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