Opinion: Roundabouts make safer intersections

Roundabouts require understanding, etiquette and awareness, but they are safer.

The three-vehicle crash that sent one woman to hospital Saturday evening offers a stark reminder of the efficacy of roundabouts.

True, not everyone appreciates their design.

But they offer a distinct advantage that would have been welcome on Saturday: They lower speeds and reduce the severity of an impact.

Saturday’s incident is still under investigation and police have only released limited information. However, witnesses say one vehicle went through the stop sign before hitting two other vehicles.

These kinds of accidents are exactly what roundabouts are intended to prevent.

As vehicles approach, they slow down and yield to vehicles in the traffic circle. If an accident does occur, the speed is slower and the angle is less direct. That results in fewer injuries, or injuries that are less serious.

Granted, they are not perfect. They require understanding, etiquette and awareness. They are not intended to be high-speed chicanes. And drivers must remain mindful of others on the road, including pedestrians and cyclists.

But as the new roundabouts recently installed on Tyson Road demonstrate, they keep the traffic moving. The four-way stops they replaced were cumbersome and often backed up traffic for blocks.

The new roundabouts are far more efficient. And they offer far greater safety – once motorists learn to use them properly.

The City of Chilliwack has made pains to keep drivers informed. It has held open houses and offers plenty of information on its website.

It’s good information to have, because roundabouts aren’t going away any time soon. Two more are slated for Prest Road, including one at the site of Saturday’s crash.

Of course safety is still ultimately the responsibility of the driver. But more thoughtful road and intersection design is making Chilliwack a better place.