Round and Round They Go -- At Least, in Theory

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By Robert Thomson
Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I was happy to see you mentioned VDOT's efforts at Gilbert's Corner in Loudoun County [Dr. G's Tips, April 12] but wish you would help educate drivers on how to drive a roundabout.

Living nearby, I witness drivers who panic and treat the yield sign like a four-way stop, causing delays; drivers who enter the circle but then try to stop at each road intersection, which is dangerous for all; and drivers who fail to use turn signals to show when they are turning so that others can enter the circle.

Americans are woefully ignorant of how to drive roundabouts, so we need newspapers and VDOT to go out of their way to educate drivers.

I do applaud efforts by VDOT at addressing the traffic at Gilbert's Corner and think the roundabouts may work. I just hope they post some signs and make more effort at getting the word out to uneducated drivers.

-- Heyward Drummond, Aldie

This is going to take some getting used to. I drove 'round the roundabout on Route 50 in eastern Loudoun County on Friday morning. On one pass, the driver in front of me came to a complete stop before entering the circle. No! That's not the idea. The sign says "Yield," not stop, and the roundabout was clear of cars.

Nobody stopped inside the circle, though everyone was cautious in using this new thing. By design, drivers can't build up serious speed approaching, entering or circling the roundabout.

Like Drummond, I'm a fan of turn signals to show intent, but the roundabout is really small and the turns are close together. A driver is likely to have two hands on the wheel through the entire experience.

This roundabout at Route 50 and Howsers Branch Drive is the first of four the Virginia Department of Transportation is building this year along the Route 50 corridor at Gilbert's Corner. I plan to talk more about it and show you what it looks like on next weekend's Commuter page.


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