What’s So Special About a Roundabout?

aerial view of highway in Wroclaw Poland

{3:02 minutes to read}

My mind has been focused on “roundabouts” for the past several weeks. This might sound strange, but there’s really a good reason for it. First of all, I happened upon an intriguing article in the NY Times about a month ago on the increasing use of roundabouts in the U.S. And then, over the past two weeks I’ve been vacationing in Europe, which is the ‘birthplace’ of the modern roundabout. So I’ve had an opportunity to see and enjoy many of these engineering designs up close during my travels.

But first, a definition is in order. A roundabout is a circular-shaped intersection through which vehicular traffic flows in a counterclockwise pattern. Roundabouts were first introduced in Europe in the 1960s and have enjoyed overwhelming acceptance ever since. To give you an idea of their prevalence, the UK has an estimated 25,000 roundabouts and France has approximately 32,000 of them.

What makes roundabouts so special? Studies show that their design intrinsically makes them much safer than other types of traffic flows. Since drivers are traveling in the same direction, roundabouts eliminate right angle crashes and head-on collisions. Vehicles moving through them also proceed at slower speeds, thus also decreasing the severity of any collisions.

The recent NY Times article specifically talked about the expansion of roundabouts in the U.S. since they first appeared here in the 1990s. Currently, there are about 5,000 roundabouts in the U.S. – double the number from a decade ago. And the author cites the fact that NY State has significantly increased its roundabouts from 18 in 2005 to 112 in 2015.

Despite what the author states, these numbers don’t seem so impressive to me, compared to those for the European countries. The problem is that there’s been quite a bit of ignorance in the U.S. as to how roundabouts work, and thus much resistance to them.

Yet, a 2007 survey conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety showed that, of 1,800 drivers interviewed before and after their communities installed roundabouts, only 34% supported installing them before they were constructed, while 69% supported them after they were constructed.

So what does this have to do with mediation? People are often not receptive to change and to doing things in a different way. Although it has been around for a while, divorce mediation is often viewed as “the new kid in town.” Unfortunately, many people still don’t know what divorce mediation is, and are unaware of its advantages over a traditional litigated divorce. Couples need to be open to trying this approach, much like the community members mentioned above, who decided to install a roundabout. Once these drivers saw the positive results, they were overwhelmingly convinced that this change was a benefit to them and their community.

What do you think it is going to take to bring divorce mediation to the forefront so that it is the first choice when a couple is contemplating a divorce?

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