According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin is the state with the highest number of roundabouts. To shed some light on this phenomenon, the publication sought the expertise of Xiao Qin, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. Qin shared insights on the increasing popularity of roundabouts, their safety benefits, and their evolution over time.
At UWM, Qin is responsible for overseeing the Safe and Smart Traffic Lab while also heading the Institute for Physical Infrastructure and Transportation. He played a crucial role in conducting Wisconsin’s initial comprehensive safety review of roundabouts constructed within the first decade by collaborating with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation between 2010 and 2011.
Roundabouts in Wisconsin
Currently, there are 554 roundabouts in Wisconsin, with 287 located on state streets and 267 on back roads in neighborhoods. The majority of these roundabouts are situated in and around Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Oshkosh, and Appleton, which are predominantly located in the eastern and southern regions of the state.
Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s website hosts an interactive picture that showcases all the roundabouts in the state. Additionally, the website offers recommendations regarding the future placement of these roundabouts.
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Safety Benefits of Roundabouts
According to Qin, roundabouts significantly reduce the risk of head-on collisions and accidents caused by left turns due to the fact that traffic flows in only one direction. This makes them highly effective in preventing two of the most hazardous types of accidents on the road.
Roundabouts are designed in a round shape to reduce the speed of cars, thereby minimizing the severity of accidents. Typically, the speed limit at roundabouts is set at 15 or 20 mph. While minor collisions such as sideswipes and fender benders can still occur at these speeds, the impact is considerably less severe than accidents at higher speeds, according to Qin.
According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), roundabouts are designed to have fewer “conflict points” compared to other types of intersections. A conflict point is any location where the paths of road users intersect, whether they are crossing, merging, diverging, or not motorized. Qin explains that crossing is less secure in areas where there are more opportunities for conflict.
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City With the Most Roundabouts
Carmel, Indiana, which is a suburb of Indianapolis, boasts of having the highest number of roundabouts in any city worldwide. In fact, there is a roundabout for every 17 streets in the city. As of 2020, Carmel is among the top 25 cities in the United States that have a high number of roundabouts, with Berkeley, California, and Miami also featuring on the list.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the United States reports 12.9 car accident fatalities per 100,000 individuals. However, in Indianapolis, the rate is slightly higher at 14.2, while in Carmel, it is only 2.4.
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