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I drive through the Washinton on Westcott roundabout every now and then, and find it to be a more pleasant and efficient experience than waiting at a light or playing the “which one of us goes next?” game that you often get at a four-way stop. I’m told there are more such roundabouts in the works at some locations, with Washington at Heights and Yale being on the list. I’d driven through roundabouts elsewhere before – Tiffany and I took a trip to France just before Olivia was born, and the road from Paris to champagne country is littered with them – and find them easy to navigate, but they’re still pretty new here, and some folks may not know what to do with them.

There’s a bill related to roundabouts – HB2214 – that has passed the House and is now pending in the Senate that would require driver’s ed students to receive instructions on how to deal with circular intersections. Monica Savino, President of the WOW Roundabout Board of Directors, gave testimony to the House Transportation Committee in favor of HB2214 as follows:

Since its completion in 2006, our Roundabout has had great success in meeting our goals.

The rate of serious accidents has virtually disappeared and our rate of minor accidents is very small.

During the first full year of operation in 2006, the City of Houston documented only 10 accidents – all minor with no injuries.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has determined that the modern roundabout is significantly more safe than a standard signalized intersection.

Mobility has been very good; currently, we move approximately 34,000 cars per day through the WOW Roundabout.

And we move them; vehicles don’t idle waiting for light changes, they don’t stop and start as they inch their way through the intersection when turns are made as in a four-way stop.

As a result, auto emissions are reduced as are other negatives that traffic congestion can bring.

During the days and weeks after Hurricane Ike, the WOW Roundabout performed as it does on any other day.

I have quickly located several new Roundabouts in the State and there are many more “on the boards”, as they say.

Traffic professionals and communities are finding in some cases that this is a more appropriate solution than the old-fashioned standard intersection.

The Federal Highway Administration is endorsing roundabouts for future projects.
We expect that Texans will see and drive through more Roundabouts in the future.

When WOW is asked by the community, “what are the proper procedures when driving through the roundabout?”, all we can do is direct them to one of the other states that makes this information available for their residents: Washington, Kansas, Colorado, Florida and New York. WOW would like the State of Texas to be the definitive resource for Texans.

Seems reasonable enough, wouldn’t you say? This CTC forum thread, from which I got Savino’s testimony, is asking folks to contact the members of the Senate transportation committee, which includes Sen. Rodney Ellis and Sen. Joan Huffman, to ask for their support of HB2214. A sample letter is included if you want to email or fax their office. HB2214 passed the House on a 142-2 vote, so it shouldn’t be controversial. It just needs to come up in time. And if you need a little incentive, try this:

The power of Jon Anderson and Chris Squire compels you.

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  1. Pete says:

    Clark Griswold: Hey look, kids! There’s [Spec’s], and [El Tiempo]!

  2. John says:

    Having lived in Massachusetts, land of the sacred cod and the rotary (as we called them there), I appreciate roundabouts – they are far more efficient that regular intersections in many situations. But I am a little pessimistic, given that Houstonians still haven’t figured out red lights or four-way stops.

    In Mass. they changed the rules of rotaries (quite a long time ago) – it went from the people entering having the right of way to those in the circle having it. When I lived there lots of people hadn’t figured it out. So in true Massachusetts fashion the de facto rule was, “Whoever blinks, yields.”

    What roundabouts DO require is drivers to pay attention to what everybody else is doing. If they work here they might actually foster some new and unusual driving habits, like looking at the other cars instead of your phone. We can hope!

  3. Trafficnerd says:

    Circles are already in the DL handbook that drivers ed students are supposed to learn… check out page 58 of the PDF (page 9-11 of the actual document) –

    So yeah, maybe some more detail like obey traffic signs etc should be included, but I surmise that’s covered elsewhere already. As far as yield on entry, unfortunately, Texas still has some circular intersections where the traffic inside the circle still yields or stops and priority is given to entering traffic. Modern roundabouts are always yield on entry like Washington at Westcott, but all circular intersections are not roundabouts.