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Why we need a new traffic sign.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 30, 2010; 12:26 PM ET
 
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Comments

The only experimental data I have to offer in support of the improved efficiency of the roundabout is that they improve traffic at bad intersections in Sim City.

Posted by: saraeanderson | March 30, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

What we need is proper driver education. I know what "yield" means, I know how to "zipper merge," I know what the accel/decel ramps are for, etc. Knowing that the red/white triangle sign means "The Other People Have The Right Of Way, Slow Down And Look Before You Attempt To Merge" has to do with how young drivers are taught.

I continue to maintain that people should not be given a driving license in northeastern the U.S. unless they can handle the New Jersey Turnpike merge/split.

Posted by: ajw_93 | March 30, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Sigh.
That should read, "in the northeastern U.S."

Posted by: ajw_93 | March 30, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

A micro-roundabout at a very busy 3-way intersection at Beaumont, Jersey, has had ¨Filter in turn¨ signs for at least 30 years. It works fine.

Posted by: JamesWimberley | March 30, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

In Britain, mini-roundabouts are just painted circles in the road so they are not expensive to install and work at three-way intersections as well four or more. I've always thought of this as an energy conservation issue, so it's nice to see some numbers confirming it.

Posted by: rayosborn | March 30, 2010 11:22 PM | Report abuse

It seems like a pretty fundamental oversight that "turn" has an ambiguous meaning, especially in this context.

Posted by: dzaleznik | March 31, 2010 12:28 AM | Report abuse

In praise of Italian drivers -- really.

Strange but true, actual drivers in Italy often treat yield signs as if they were take turns signs.

I absolutely agree that there should be such signs. The current law (in Italy as well as the USA) which requires those who are to yield to yield if not forever then for a full rush hour would cause daily gridlock.

In this case, the facts that the law is not enforced and that Italians ignore it works out fairly well. With absurd laws, people have developed social norms which work OK.

There are people who just push ahead always. This is irritating, but the overall outcome (people get to work and then get home using narrow roads with very few traffic lights) is much better than the outcome would be if people obeyed the codice della strada as written.

Posted by: rjw88 | April 1, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

OK now to be picky. The problem with the sign is the word "if." The proposal, which I support, has different rules for what to do if cars are waiting (take turns) or if they aren't (vehicle coming from the right has the right of way).

If cars are inching forward bumper to bumper they are clearly waiting. If they are going 65 and separated by a safe following distance they aren't (also if they are in Italy pigs are flying).

So what about cars going 20 with 20 feet between one car and the next ?

There is a serious problem if who has the right of way depends on the subjective condition with grey areas "if cars are waiting." The main point of rules of precedence is that it, if people follow the rules, there won't be two cars in the same place at the same time.

The proposed sign sacrifices some clarity on this point in the name of efficiency. It is possible that any gain in efficiency will be entirely lost because of fender benders and people trading insurance information and arguing.

Posted by: rjw88 | April 1, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

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