Hilliard Headlines: Data shows roundabouts are making city safer

LETTY SCHAMP
Letty Schamp

Quite simply, roundabouts keep people safe, and the city of Hilliard has data that proves it.

Speed and angle of impact are critical factors that affect whether or not someone walks away from a vehicle crash. For pedestrians and bicyclists, speed plays an even greater role in safety.

This is the No. 1 reason city leaders are investing in roundabouts to control traffic at intersections. Roundabouts force drivers to slow down and nearly eliminate severe head-on or angle crashes at traditional intersections.

Roundabouts are a practical solution to keep people moving safely. Although these circular intersections are not new to the Hilliard community, it is my job as deputy city engineer to continuously evaluate and make changes to increase their effectiveness.

Hilliard has seen a significant decrease in crashes at the two Main Street roundabouts since we performed a series of improvements last summer.

What have we learned in one year since these improvements? The data speaks for itself.

Since September 2019, the Main Street and Cemetery Road roundabout monthly crash average decreased from seven per month to three, and the Main Street and Scioto Darby Road roundabout monthly crash average decreased from three per month to one.

Physical changes we made to the roundabouts in 2019 included:

* Construction of raised crosswalks at Main Street and Cemetery Road, which decreased vehicle speeds at the crosswalks by more than 10%. Today, average speeds at these crosswalks are at or below 20 mph. This translates to a safer environment for pedestrians.

* Changes to signs and markings at Main Street and Cemetery Road, where crash frequency decreased by 57%.

* Geometric changes at Main Street and Scioto Darby Road, where crash frequency at the northbound entry decreased by 84%.

The Main Street roundabouts carry more than 30,000 vehicles per day, so complete elimination of fender-bender crashes might not be realistic.

But these statistics show that our 2019 modifications have been effective. The trade-off between minor crashes at roundabouts and serious injury crashes at traditional intersections is an easy one for me.

Of course, navigating multilane roundabouts requires that everyone know the roundabout rules: slow down, follow the signs to choose the correct lane, yield to both lanes in the roundabout and yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.

We know roundabouts with fewer lanes are simpler for drivers and pedestrians to navigate, which is why the city is continuing to plan and build more single-lane roundabouts in the coming years.

The next one is coming in 2021 at Scioto Darby and Walcutt roads. Another is planned at Cosgray Road and Woodsview Way in 2022.

The city also is making some minor changes to signs and lane markings at three Britton Parkway roundabouts this year to simplify operations.

With the combination of decreased speeds, less dangerous angles of impact and community awareness of the roundabout rules, roundabouts work to keep Hilliard drivers and pedestrians safe.

Letty Schamp is Hilliard's deputy city engineer.