Maryland Roundabout Safety Experience

The modern roundabout is a circular intersection that features channelized approaches, yield control for entering vehicles, and geometric curvatures that ensure that travel speeds within the roundabout typically are 30 mph or less. As of September 2001, Maryland had more than 25 modern roundabouts in operation along State maintained highways. Eight of these roundabouts (those built between April 1993 and December 1998) replaced conventional intersections for which "before" accident data are available and have been in operation long enough to obtain good "after" accident data.

Marylandís first with roundabouts are small to moderate size (outer inscribed circle diameter of 150 feet or less), with one circular lane and single-lane entries. The average daily number of entering vehicles ranged from 3,700 to 21,00 with most in the range of 9,000 to 14,000. These roundabouts for the most part were constructed as alternatives to installing traffic signals being demanded by the public in response to real or perceived accident-prone intersections. Signals at these locations were either deemed to be unwarranted or otherwise inappropriate. Each roundabout replaced stop signs or intersection control beacons preciously controlling the intersections.

In spite of traffic growth, since conversion to roundabouts, the annual accidents for the eight intersections dropped from an average of 5.0 accidents/year in the before period, to an average of 1.8 accidents/year in the after period, a 64% reduction. Accident severity also decreased. Injury accidents have shown a reduction from an annual average of 3.0 injury accidents in the before period to an annual average of 0.5 injury accidents in the after period, a reduction of 83%. Each of the eight location experienced a reduction in both total reported accidents and injury accidents. The aggregate results are shown in the following:

Total Mean Rate

Injury Mean Rate

Before Period

1.53 acc/MVE

Before Period

0.97 acc/MVE

After Period

0.48 acc/MVE

After Period

0.11 acc/MVE

 

The mean total accident rate for the roundabouts in the before period was 1.53 reported accidents/MVE, compared to 0.48 accidents/MVE in the after period. The mean injury accident rate dropped from 0.97 accidents/MVE in the before period to 0.11 accidents/MVE in the after period. Using the Donald A. Morin application of statistical concepts to accident data (Morin Lower Control Limit Test) indicates that both total and injury accident reductions are significant at a 95% confidence interval.

In addition to those eight roundabouts, nine other single lane roundabouts were opened to traffic in late 1998 or 1999. They also have outside diameters of 150 feet or less. Although they have been in operation for at least a year, the types of accident analyses to which the first eight roundabouts were subjected cannot be performed for these locations. At four locations, no intersection previously existed. One location involved a replacement of a conventional intersection with an interchange and two roundabouts at the feet of the ramps. At three locations, roundabouts replaced conventional intersection, but the roundabouts have been in operation for too short a period to yield adequate after period data. Preliminary data at these latter three location, nevertheless, is encouraging. Only one, non-injury accident has bee reported during their first year of operation, compared with an average of three accidents per year (half being injury accident) during the prior three-year period.

Maryland has also constructed three 2-lane roundabouts. One of these, the Towson roundabout, merits specific discussion. The Towson roundabout is located in a highly urbanized setting and replaced two adjacent signalized intersections. It is oval in design, having an outer diameter that varies from 140 feet to 260 feet. It involves five major approaches. At the time of conversion, the total entering volume at the existing intersection averaged nearly 50,000 vehicles per day. Since its opening, the Towson roundabout has experienced a nearly fourfold increase in annual property damage accident (2.6/yr vs 10.0/yr). However, offsetting this increase, injury accidents have decreased by two-thirds (4.2/yr vs 1.5/yr). No fatal crash occurred in either the before or after period. Incidentally, construction of the roundabout substantially improved the Level of Service (LOS) and decreased the traffic delay at the location. The morning LOS went from B to A and evening LOS improved from E to B. total vehicle delay was lowered by 70% and 58% in the morning and evening peak hours, respectively.

The other two-lane roundabouts have insufficient data for any meaningful analysis. One is new intersection. Although at the other there is inadequate after period data for a meaningful analysis, there is no indication there will be a dramatic rise in property damage collisions there.

The remaining roundabouts have been in operation for shorter periods of time, and less than 12 months of accident data since their opening are available.

Based on the accident reduction experience and operational improvements, Maryland likely will expand its use of modern roundabouts. It also will continue to evaluate their safety impact.

 

Office of Traffic and Safety--October 2001

Maryland State Highway Administration