Starting next week Person County motorists will encounter a strange new traffic pattern.
Person County’s first roundabout is expected to be operational by Thursday or Friday at the intersection of Morgan Street and Long Avenue.
The long-delayed project is intended to reduce the number of crashes at that intersection. Studies show roundabout reduce crashes at intersections by 46 percent. Serious crashes, that involve injuries and deaths fall by 76 percent.
But the data doesn’t wash with some people who believe Person County motorists will be confused by the new traffic pattern.
Some residents have been vocal on social media about their belief that a traffic circle will confuse drivers, slowing traffic and causing the potential for more crashes.
In a comment on a Facebook post about the roundabout, Jean Mise said the new pattern won’t help drivers.
“‘I’ve lived in Person County all my life and if drivers don’t know what to do at a stop sign... and you don’t know what to do at 4-way stops, then how will this ‘small’ roundabout fix anything,” Mise said.
Andrew Barksdale, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Transportation, said the learning curve isn’t all that difficult.
“Once people start using the roundabout, we think they will pick it up pretty quickly,” Barksdale said. He said roundabouts are a better method for handling traffic when it comes to mobility and safety. “To the extent that you do still have crashes in a roundabout, they tend to be less serious.”
That’s because cars are often traveling slower when they enter the roundabout than they would be if they ran a stop sign at a true four-way intersection.
Barksdale said the roundabouts also improve traffic flow because motorists don’t always have to stop. A roundabout does eliminate the stop-and-go-and-wait nature of a traffic light or a stop sign,” Barksdale said. “There may be some times of day when traffic is light, that you can go right through that intersection without stopping at all.”
But the question remains, just how do you drive through a roundabout?
Navigating the new pattern
Roundabouts are designed to make traffic move in the same direction. Drivers will see signs alerting them to the new roundabout before they get to the intersection. Entrances into the roundabout are governed by yield signs, not stop signs. So if there is no oncoming traffic in the roundabout, a driver can enter the roundabout without coming to a full stop. Curbing along Morgan Street and Long Avenue at the approaches to the intersection, will guide motorists into the right-hand turn drivers must make the enter the roundabout.
Drivers inside the roundabout do not yield to drivers trying to enter the intersection.
Once in the roundabout, drivers can exit when they get to the street they want to be on. Again, those exits are right-hand turns and traffic moves into those turns without having to make a stop.
At the new roundabout, there will be four chances to exit. Travel a quarter of the way around to turn right at the next street. Go halfway around to continue straight.
Instead of making a traditional left turn, go three-quarters around before exiting to the right. Travel full circle to make a U-turn.
Driver’s should use their turn signals when they are preparing to enter and exit the roundabout just as they would at a traditional intersection.
The traffic circle in the center of the roundabout is designed with sloped curbs that will allow large trucks to have more room to navigate the roundabout, so if you see a truck jump up on the curbing, don’t assume it’s a problem with the design of the intersection. That’s the way it’s meant to work.
DOT engineers say work crews will begin pouring concrete for the traffic circle on Monday or Tuesday. If that happens, the roundabout should be fully operational by Thursday or Friday.