San Benito County Introduces Innovative Three-Lane ‘Turbo Roundabout’ to Address High Accident Rate

Deadly Intersection Targeted for Transformation

 

San Benito County in California is set to introduce a unique three-lane ‘turbo roundabout’ at the hazardous crossroads of highways 25 and 156.

Despite concerns about potential confusion among drivers, city planners are hopeful that this innovative design will address the site’s high accident rate, which has seen double the number of collisions compared to similar intersections in the state.

Unique Design and Safety Features

 

Different from a traditional roundabout, this turbo roundabout will have three lanes, each separated by dividers measuring three inches in height.

These dividers aim to discourage lane changes once vehicles enter the roundabout, emphasizing the importance of choosing a lane before entering and maintaining it until reaching the desired exit.

The left lane is designated for left turns or proceeding straight, the middle lane for continuing straight, and the right lane for right turns.

Complexity and Preparation

 

To prepare drivers for this new system, the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) and San Benito County Governments released an instructional video.

The video details how drivers should navigate the roundabout, emphasizing the need to yield to existing traffic, stay within the designated lane, and slow down before approaching the structure.

Turbo Roundabouts: A Safety Measure

 

While the term ‘turbo’ might imply speed, it actually refers to the roundabout’s spiral shape. These structures, pioneered in the Netherlands in the 1990s, have a proven track record of significantly reducing collisions.

Caltrans spokesperson Jim Shivers highlighted the success of roundabouts in improving safety across the country.

A Global Concept Implemented Locally

 

The San Benito County roundabout, inspired by Dutch designs, began construction in December 2022 and has already seen partial openings without any reported collisions.

Despite various safety measures previously attempted by Caltrans, such as signal timing adjustments and signage installation, the roundabout was seen as the most viable option to swiftly address safety concerns.

Comparison with European Road Systems

 

While roundabouts are common in Europe, they are less prevalent in the U.S., with approximately 13,000 across the country.

In contrast, countries like the UK and France have significantly higher numbers per capita, showcasing a notable disparity in roundabout prevalence between Europe and the United States.

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