The world is changing fast around us, but one thing will always be the same: people get really fired up about proposed traffic circles and roundabouts. Across Kingston, Poughkeepsie and Newburgh, new roundabouts are popping up seemingly every year. As personal injury attorneys who represent clients who have been injured in motor vehicle, trucking, bicycle and pedestrian accidents, we wanted to provide some tips for safely navigating roundabouts in the Hudson Valley.

Our Guide to Hudson Valley Roundabouts

Traffic circles/rotaries first came to the United States about a century ago, and gained a pretty bad rap over the years. In 1992, the first roundabout was built, offering many advantages to the traditional traffic circle. Although it’s also circular in design, roundabouts have a key difference: they are designed to force drivers to slow down, and the decisions drivers make to enter the roundabout are more forgiving and gradual. There are lower closing speeds, angles and impacts compared to traffic circles and especially traditional intersections, resulting in less serious accidents and fewer injuries.

Studies have shown that roundabouts reduce injury crashes by up to about 75% compared to traditional intersections with traffic signals, and fatalities by over 90%. Other studies have said that while roundabouts decrease the number of fatalities and personal injury accidents compared to intersections, they can slightly increase the number of minor accidents that result in property damage, especially in poor weather conditions.

They’re also shown to increase traffic capacity and pedestrian safety.

The key aspects of roundabouts are:

  • Circular
  • Yield to enter
  • Low speeds
  • Designed based on traffic patterns
  • No two are alike
  • Smaller diameter than traffic circles

There has been an explosion in the number of roundabouts in the Hudson Valley. Intersections that have a history of having serious car accidents and causing confusion and backups are often targeted by planners and engineers for a roundabout design. Here are some examples of existing and proposed roundabouts in the Hudson Valley:

1. Route 78 & James P. Kelley Way in Middletown, NY

The James P Kelly Way/Route 78 roundabout was just completed on October 2, the result of a $2M construction project that was first discussed starting in 2009. The previous intersection was described as “tricky,” as it caused many crashes by confusing drivers after a number of speed limit changes. As with many roundabouts, the initial reaction to the change has been mixed.

2. Kingston, NY Thruway Roundabout

We’re not sure when the old rotary was first constructed, but until 2000, the intersection of Route 28, I-587, Washington Avenue and the Thruway/I-87 was home to a rotary, or traffic circle, that was 600 feet in diameter. Drivers were able to weave around the rotary at between 30 to 45 miles per hour.

The case was made to convert the rotary into a roundabout. State transportation officials cited over 200 accidents over the three years leading up to 2000; a rate of an accident every five and a half days, with 49 of the accidents resulting in injury.

In 2001, the old rotary was reduced in size from 600 feet to 200 feet, the speed limit was reduced from 45 mph to 15 mph, and side access roads were provided for drivers who were just traveling from one spoke to the next.

At first, the Daily Freeman reported that the conversion was widely decried by motorists, and it gained the nickname “Dysfunction Junction.” But after a few months, a follow-up story said that the rate of accidents had slowed considerably, especially as improvements like better lighting and signage were installed over time. At the end of 2001, the state Department of Transportation said personal injury accidents were reduced by 85%.

3. Raymond Avenue Roundabouts in Poughkeepsie, NY

In the aftermath of the Kingston roundabout rollout in 2001, it was noted in a Daily Freeman article that the Department of Transportation was considering roundabouts on Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie. At the time, Raymond Avenue was a four-lane arterial road that was focused on moving cars through as quickly as possible. As part of a “Main Street” project by the NYS DOT, three roundabouts were installed to help provide safer experiences for pedestrians and bicyclists while reducing accidents and vehicle speeds, which average close to 50 mph at the time.

A study in 2007 found that accidents were cut in half, vehicle speeds went down by 24%, and eventually, driver confusion decreased. Much of the opposition to the project centered around the inconvenience created by the construction, especially to businesses that relied on the car traffic and availability of parking.

4. Roundabout at Route 17’s Exit 131 in Harriman, NY

Last year, New York State announced that two roundabouts will be installed in Harriman, NY near Woodbury Common as part of a $150M effort to unsnarl traffic backups and confusion that often happen there. The project is expected to be completed this year.

5. Proposed Legoland/Route 17 Roundabout in Goshen, NY

The upcoming Legoland amusement park in Goshen is expected to attract 1.5 to 2.5M visitors annually. That’s a lot of cars on Route 17. Part of the plan to accommodate all of that traffic is to introduce a roundabout near the BOCES complex on Harriman Drive, leading to Route 17.

6. Town of Wallkill, NY Roundabout

In 2015, the intersection of Dolsontown, Schutt and Airport Roads and Genung Street was converted to a roundabout. The new design includes an ornamental clock and eye-catching landscaping to help alert drivers that they’re approaching a roundabout.

7. Proposed Kingston, NY Roundabout at intersection of Albany Avenue and Broadway

As with the recent City of Middletown roundabout, the case for a roundabout has been made since at least 2010. At that time, a consultant said that there were 149 accidents at the intersection of I-587, Albany Avenue and Broadway between 2007 and 2009, a rate of about 50 a year.

The project is expected to begin soon and take two years to complete. The design includes an elevated crosswalk above I-587 and a 10-foot-wide mixed-use path for pedestrians and bicycles. This video from 2011 shows how traffic will flow through the intersection.

8. Route 23/Route 9G Roundabout near Hudson, NY

There’s work in progress by the NYS Department of Transportation to turn to the intersection of Route 9G and Route 23 into a roundabout, with pedestrian and bike paths connected to the Olana State Historic Site and the Hudson River Skywalk project across the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. It’s expected to be completed this winter, here’s a video visualization of how traffic will flow through it.

9. Route 55 Roundabouts in Lagrangeville, NY

Route 55 in Lagrangeville has three roundabouts, near Freedom Road, Arlington High School and the shopping plazas. The first of them was completed in the fall of 2014, with the goal of improving traffic delays through the town out towards the Taconic State Parkway. The Poughkeepsie Journal, first in late 2013, in the fall 0f 2014, and twice in the spring of 2016, has consistently noted that for all of the benefits of roundabouts, they take some getting used to.

Car accidents are a serious problem

Every year in New York State, car accidents result in over 1,000 deaths vehicle accidents, 12,000 hospitalizations, and over 135,000 emergency department visits. If you’ve been in a car accident in a roundabout or traffic circle then the person who hit you may be liable for your injuries and property damages. There are many reasons a person can be at fault for causing a car crash in a roundabout, such as inattentiveness, following too closely, texting while driving, failing to yield, driving under the influence or failing to obey other vehicle and traffic laws. Additionally, the municipality who designed or built the roundabout may be held liable for your injuries if the crash was caused due to improper lighting and design of the intersection or roundabout. We know how to handle roundabout cases and have obtained millions of dollars for Hudson Valley car accident victims. Call us today at 845-600-0000 to schedule a free consultation. At Mainetti & Mainetti, We’ll Push Back for You.

How to navigate a roundabout

See it and look at the signage

This sounds elementary, but the first and most important step to navigating a roundabout is to see it coming. If road conditions are such that you can’t see the roundabout coming, you shouldn’t be driving, but generally, roundabouts are supposed to be eye-catching, with clear, well-lit signage and an easily identifiable center island. Some roundabouts even have the option to bypass it altogether if you’re looking for a certain exit.

Be ready to yield

When approaching the roundabout, look around. Is there a car coming in the lane that you’re in? Is there a pedestrian crosswalk with a person in it, or about to be in it?

Proceed when no one is coming

When there is a safe gap in traffic, enter the roundabout.

Stay in your lane

Once you pick your lane based on the signage, stay there. Most modern roundabouts have only one lane, or if they have two, they’re designated for specific exits. For two lane roundabouts; generally, if you’re going straight, you can do so from either lane, if you’re going left, you can do so from the left lane, and if you’re going right, you’re either going to be in the right lane or in a pre-roundabout exit.

Drive slowly

One of the reasons that roundabouts cause fewer fatal and personal injury accidents is that they force drivers to go slowly. Instead of risking getting t-boned by someone running an intersection red light, everyone has to drive at 15-20 miles per hour through a roundabout.

Be careful around trucks

You shouldn’t have to pass cars in roundabouts, and that applies especially to trucks. They have such wide turn radiuses that it is very dangerous to be next to them at any time in a roundabout.

Share with cyclists and pedestrians

Bicyclists have every right to use roundabouts like vehicles, and generally, they can go fast enough to not even impede the flow of traffic. They also have the option to join pedestrians in the roundabout crosswalk.

Drivers are getting better at roundabouts

One of the most common fears expressed by people who speak out against roundabouts is the concern that other drivers don’t know how to use roundabouts. While this was a major concern even 15 years ago, there are or will be roundabouts in Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Lagrangeville, Middletown, Harriman, Goshen and several other Hudson Valley communities. More and more local people have seen a variety of roundabouts and are adapting, which should result in even greater safety benefits.

Additional information: The NYS DOT has a great guide to navigating roundabouts on their site.

Photo Credits: NYS DOT, Project for Public Spaces, Maser Consulting