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Study finds roundabouts reduce fatalities

Replacing intersections in Michigan and around the country with roundabouts would greatly reduce accident fatalities but also lead to a surge in minor crashes according to a study by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Researchers looked at how building roundabouts affected road safety at 144 intersections in that state, and they discovered that fatal crashes fell by 86 percent while property damage-only accidents increased by as much as 200 percent.

Road safety advocates have long praised the safety benefits of roundabouts. The vehicles on roundabouts all move in the same direction and drivers must slow down before entering them, which virtually eliminates potentially deadly T-bone accidents that involve the side of one car being struck by the front of another. However, drivers find roundabouts confusing to use and efforts to replace intersections with them are often opposed fiercely.

Driver confusion is likely the reason that property damage accidents increased so sharply in Minnesota when stop signs and traffic lights were replaced with roundabouts. The increase in minor car accidents was most pronounced when complex roundabouts featuring multiple circulating lanes were built. Roundabouts have also been linked with higher pedestrian injury and death rates, and tractor-trailer drivers say that they are difficult for large vehicles to navigate.

Drivers who crash at intersections often point fingers at one another, and police reports may not always come to firm conclusions about who was to blame. Claims of comparative negligence are common in car accident lawsuits, and experienced personal injury attorneys may expect them when seeking compensation on behalf of those who have been harmed due to the actions of another driver. When law enforcement investigations are inconclusive, attorneys often conduct inquiries of their own to gather the evidence needed to establish liability.

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