Roundabout drivers must know when to yield
January 17, 2013
Patience and yielding the right of way are key measures to safely maneuvering around the installation's roundabout, officials said.
The roundabout, completed in July 2011, connects Pence Gate, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, the Community Center and Belvoir Road.
"The circle is designed to meet the standards of the Virginia Department of Transportation and the National Transportation Safety Board," said Chris Landgraf, Directorate of Public Works master planner.
VDOT traffic engineers said oncoming traffic must yield the right of way to vehicles inside the circle. In addition, when two drivers enter the roundabout simultaneously, the motorist traveling in the inner lane must yield the right of way to the vehicle in the outer lane of the circle. All motorists must yield to pedestrians crossing the road.
According to VDOT's website, roundabouts are the safest at-grade intersection.
The circular intersection causes a 90 percent reduction in fatal crashes, a 75 percent reduction in injury crashes, a 30 to 40 percent reduction in accidents involving pedestrians and a 10 percent reduction in bicycle incidents.
The reasons behind these reductions are the speeds and angles at which motorist drive. The typical speed in a roundabout in Virginia is 25 mph or lower. This gives drivers more time to react to other vehicles and pedestrians. The circular dimensions of the roundabout also minimize the chances of severe collisions.
Belvoir's intersection, which has a 70 foot diameter, is open to bicyclists and has crosswalks for pedestrians.
"The roundabout was built to promote a freer flow of traffic entering and exiting Pence Gate," Landgraf said.
DPW believed a traditional intersection could have potentially slowed down traffic on Route 1 because of the frequent stopping associated with traffic signals.
The Directorate of Emergency Services monitors daily gate traffic. According to Timothy Wolfe, DES police chief, traffic jams haven't been a problem.
However, several motorists have experienced side-collision accidents or close calls in the intersection due to a failure to yield the right of way. The issue stems from traffic entering the roundabout from Pence Gate or Belvoir Road. Motorists in the inside lane traveling from either direction are not yielding to drivers on the outside lane traveling around the intersection. Instead these motorists are attempting to exit the roundabout via Pence Gate or Belvoir Road by cutting across drivers in the outside lane.
In this situation, VDOT traffic engineers said the inside-lane driver must yield to the outside-lane vehicle. Motorists driving in the inside lane should use their turn signals to inform other drivers of their intentions and only exit when they have a clear path. If a clear path isn't available motorists should travel around the circle and exit when possible.