Another round of gripes about those roundabouts

TRAFFIC TALK

March 26, 2002|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IT'S TIME to revisit those roundabouts, according to Brent Cogswell of Columbia and other readers who had their own points to make or simply pointed out my omissions.

"You've run two columns about roundabouts, but not once have you pointed out that the best thing anyone can do is signal their intentions - both before entering the roundabout and when exiting the roundabout. How about a `primer' about doing this?" he says.

You're oh so right, Mr. Cogswell. Here's what the State Highway Administration's fact sheet has to say about signaling at roundabouts:

If you wish to turn right, signal a right turn on the approach and through the roundabout.

If you wish to go straight, you do not need to signal.

If you wish to turn left, signal a left turn on the approach to the roundabout and through the roundabout. Upon passing the street before your exit, turn on your right-turn signal.

But I have to point out, however, that I've tried this on several of the roundabouts, and inevitably, have gotten honked at (or worse) by confused and worried drivers behind me. Maybe after reading this, they'll know what I was trying to do.

And another word about the roundabout at Routes 104 and 100. Columbia's Noel Hall noted the Feb. 5 column on traffic circles "with interest because I've always been annoyed by the 104/108 circle," she says. Her comments show how various drivers have worked out strategies to ensure their safety in navigating roundabouts in Howard County.

She likes the idea of the etiquette suggested by Bob Lewis in that column, but believes it isn't practical. "I cannot rely on the person in the outside lane to follow that etiquette and I resent being categorized as a rude element of our society for taking action to reduce my exposure to those that don't follow his etiquette," she says, identifying herself as one of those drivers who enters in the right lane only to traverse to the second exit. "I do this not because the line is shorter. In fact, I try to adjust my speed such that traffic in the left lane beats me to the intersection. That way, I reduce the possibility of negotiating the circle with a driver in the adjacent lane."

As for occupying the right lane, she says, "I do this because I have been trapped in the left lane. This occurs when you enter the circle in the left lane which puts you on the inside lane of the circle. Trying to exit the circle from the inside lane is an open invitation to have a car in the outside lane plow into your passenger side by those not following Bob's etiquette."

Hall points out that this etiquette concern especially applies to the roundabout at Routes 100 and 104. "This circle is simply not large enough to be two concentric lanes. It simply makes no sense to make two lane changes inside the distance of 100 feet of travel, which is what you must do if you enter the circle on the left-most lane, move to the inner lane of the circle, and, no sooner than you get there, move back out to the outer lane to exit the circle," she says.

Bob Lewis' suggestions about proper roundabout etiquette are not just his alone, however. Here's what the SHA fact sheet recommends:

If you wish to turn right, approach the roundabout in the right lane.

If you wish to go straight ahead, you may approach the roundabout in the left or right lane. From whichever lane you enter, stay in your lane through the roundabout.

If you wish to turn left, approach the roundabout in the left lane. Upon entering, remember to drive close to the central island of the roundabout until you are ready to exit.

A final word of advice from SHA. Be especially careful around large vehicles. Even in two-lane roundabouts, buses and trucks may need more than their fair share of space to enter, circulate or leave a roundabout - so stay clear of them.

For a copy of SHA's brochure about roundabouts (titled, simply, "Roundabouts"): SHA's Office of Communications, 410-545-0310 or 800-323-6742.

What's your driving dilemma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at elison @us.net. Technophobes can mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 5570 Sterrett Place, Suite 300, Columbia 21044, or fax 410-715-2816.

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