They are chaotic and counterproductive

Kalen McCain, Columnist

Driving is a complicated task, simplified with practice because the rules of the road are consistent. People inevitably drive recklessly, but the fact that rules are always the same and always known allows even the least competent drivers to operate several-ton machinery with relatively little danger.

Roundabouts cast this simplicity to the curb. Each one has different rules that only the locals truly understand. If you haven’t practiced a given roundabout before entering it, you’d better hope you read the signs explaining how to use it 150 feet back, because you can’t possibly figure it out on the fly.

Even if you do know the rules for the roundabout at hand, your knowledge will often be lost on the incompetence of some fool who either didn’t read the instructions or blew by the yield sign in a hurry. Then you’re scared for your life as you try to exit in the space that a certain red Audi insists it has a better use for at the moment.

In a simple intersection, we don’t run into these problems. Green means go. Yellow means get out of the way. Red means stop, but you can turn right if nobody is putting the intersection to better use. By using hard and fast rules, intersections ensure our safety by making our safety decisions for us through well-planned lights. Roundabouts expect everyone to share the road and think like collectivists, but that’s contrary to the way Americans drive. Even if some people understand and respect the rules, it only takes one incompetent operator to ruin the roundabout for everyone.

I’m aware that numbers suggest otherwise, and that roundabouts supposedly correlate with a decrease in traffic accidents, but I find this hard to believe on the anecdotal basis of how I fear for my life every time I enter one.

Everyone wants to get where they’re going first and is convinced that they’re good enough drivers to do so: the decree of lights 18 feet from the ground is all that can stop us. By leaving us to our own devices, roundabouts leave us to reckless abandon in exchange for a cute plaza in the center that nobody walks on because it’s utterly terrifying.

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