The number of roundabouts in Colorado has increased over the last two decades. Also referred to as a traffic circle or rotaries, roundabouts were introduced to reduce the likelihood of an intersection accident. Unfortunately, accidents continue to happen due to driver confusion and disagreement regarding right-of-way.
Importantly, if someone has been injured in a roundabout accident, they may be entitled to recover damages in a personal injury claim. Our Denver personal injury law firm authored this article to help Colorado residents understand how to navigate roundabouts and avoid accidents. In the event a driver is injured in a car accident in a roundabout, we will also discuss the importance of retaining a qualified car accident lawyer in Colorado.
History of Roundabouts in Colorado
While roundabouts were introduced to Colorado in the late 1980s, the public was not ready for such an unusual intersection. There was apprehension in Colorado communities because residents did not have experience with roundabouts. It took several decades of research to convince the public they are a safer intersection type than a traditional four-way stop or traffic signal. In traditional intersections, four lanes proceed in opposite directions where two streets meet.
It goes without saying the most dangerous place in a traditional intersection is the center, where vehicles drive past each other, leaving only a couple of feet in between.
Roundabouts Are Here To Stay
Decades later, more roundabouts have entered the state marking a trend that will likely continue. Since the design was first introduced in the city of Golden in the late 1990s, traffic engineers have continued to promote roundabouts as a means of regulating vehicle flow effectively through troubled intersections.
Traffic engineers argued that, instead of going straight through a junction, cities should install a 12-foot-wide circular curb in the middle to promote safety by forcing vehicles to reduce speeds. Arguably, roundabouts eliminated the possibility of broadside accidents.
Growing Popularity of Roundabouts in Colorado
As their popularity has grown, some states have legally designated roundabouts as a default option in new construction, meaning they are considered the optimal solution for intersections with the burden on other possibilities to be proven better. Colorado is no exception. In fact, according to the Washington Post, Colorado has one of the largest concentrations of roundabouts in the country, ranking sixth in the nation in roundabouts per mile.
Whether residents like it or not, it is clear roundabouts will continue to be a part of driving on Colorado roadways.
According to the Colorado Department of Transportation (“CDOT”), there are currently 150 roundabouts on Colorado roadways that have replaced the traditional signed or signalized intersection. Since installing these roundabouts, data from CDOT confirmed incredible safety benefits, including a 35% reduction in all accidents, a 78% reduction in fatalities, and an 89% reduction in accident-related pedestrian injuries. CDOT has also reported there have been no fatal accidents in roundabouts in the last five years in CDOT’s northwestern region.
How is Traffic Regulated in a Roundabout?
There are general rules Colorado drivers should recognize when navigating a roundabout. These rules include:
- Drivers should slow down before entering the roundabout;
- Drivers entering the roundabout must yield to those already in it;
- Drivers are prohibited from switching lanes while in the roundabout;
- Drivers must yield to pedestrians before entering the roundabout
- Pedestrians must yield to vehicles already in the roundabout.
Many people forget or do not know all these rules. Ignorance of the rules in a roundabout is not an excuse that can shield a driver from liability if a crash occurs. In an effort to aid Colorado drivers in navigating roundabouts, CDOT published the following helpful video:
Yield to Larger Vehicles in Roundabouts Act
As Coloradans continued to struggle with the proper way to navigate a roundabout, the state legislature has passed a law that impact navigation. HB23-1014 was passed earlier this year and signed into legislation by Governor Jared Polis. The Yield to Larger Vehicles in Roundabouts Act requires a driver to yield the right-of-way to the driver of a truck, bus, emergency vehicle, or recreational vehicle that generally has a total length of more than 35 feet or a total width of more than 10 feet when entering, exiting, or driving in the circulatory lanes in a roundabout.
Basically, when Colorado drivers are entering a roundabout and a large or emergency vehicle is also entering a roundabout, they need to yield to them regardless of which driver may have the right of way if it were two normal vehicles entering at the same time.
This does not mean a motorist has to let a large or emergency vehicle pass them from behind. Rather, it basically means drivers should stay completely out of their way and let them use however much space and however many lanes of the roundabout they need to safely turn their vehicle around the circle and exit wherever they intend to exit.
The penalty for breaking the Yield to Larger Vehicles in Roundabouts Act is a Class A traffic infraction, and violators can face a fine of up to $70.00 with a $10.00 surcharge on top of that.
What Factors May Determine Negligence in a Roundabout Crash?
To prove negligence, a victim of personal injury must establish they were owed a duty of care. Every person behind the wheel of a car must act in a reasonable manner to avoid causing injuries to others. Once a duty of care is established, the victim of personal injury must prove there was a breach of that duty that resulted in injuries. In a roundabout car accident case, all drivers owe each other a duty to understand the rules for driving in a traffic circle. Pedestrians and cyclists are expected to know the rules too. Those who fail to adhere to the rules of a roundabout can be considered negligent.
Negligence in a roundabout crash can mean:
- There was a right of way violation – When a driver entering the roundabout fails to yield to traffic already in the roundabout or people in the crosswalk
- Yielding to those who do not have the right of way – When a driver in the roundabout yields to pedestrians attempting to cross the street or other vehicles trying to enter the roundabout
- Getting into the wrong lane upon entering the roundabout – When a driver gets into a lane that does not have an exit to the street he or she is turning onto and then attempts to switch lanes while in the roundabout
No two accidents are the same, so negligence in a roundabout collision can look different. These are just some of the most common examples. Sometimes speeding, distracted driving and impaired driving are factors in the crash.
In some cases, a third party may bear some fault for the collision. For example, a pedestrian or cyclist may bear partial responsibility if he or she crossed the road while it was not safe to do so. Even though drivers owe a greater duty of care to pedestrians and cyclists, pedestrians and cyclists can be liable.
Can I Pursue Compensation for a Crash in a Poorly Designed Roundabout?
Poorly designed road cases are rare. Most accidents are caused by a negligent driver, so the person’s liability insurance usually pays compensation. However, you may be able to pursue compensation from a governmental entity if a poorly designed roundabout caused an accident.
A poor roundabout design can include:
- Improper use of yield signs – when a yield sign is not visible to the person who is supposed to yield the right of way; for example, anyone in a crosswalk should be warned traffic in the circle does not yield
- Two lanes in the roundabout but only one allows for a clean exit – There are some roundabouts with multiple lanes in the circle but only one lane provides a smooth exit for each street. This can cause a back up of traffic at each entry point. It can also lead to more drivers attempting to change lanes while in the roundabout.
- Lack of or inappropriate speed limits – Drivers should reduce their speed when attempting to enter a roundabout, but if there is no sign alerting them to this it could cause an issue. At the same time, not posting a slow enough speed could also result in drivers entering the traffic circle too fast.
There may also be an issue with the design of the roundabout itself. For example, it may not be a perfect circle, resulting in confusion for drivers. The placement of the roundabout may also be an issue. Roundabouts should be placed in low traffic areas, not on major highways.
Consult Our Colorado Personal Injury Law Firm
Whether a driver’s negligence or poor road design caused your collision in a roundabout, our personal injury attorneys are prepared to help. We do not charge you anything up front or while we work on your case. The initial consultation to discuss your claim is also free. There is no risk to you. If you have been injured in a car accident in a roundabout, contact Bowman Law to discuss your rights. Our personal injury law firm is standing by.
Owner and Managing Attorney
Jerry Bowman, J.D., M.A., Owner and managing attorney of Bowman Law LLC, takes his responsibility to the legal profession seriously and dedicates his time and effort to providing quality and competent legal representation to clients in Denver and throughout all of Colorado. He holds an MA in Political Science from Wayne State University and earned his law degree in two and a half years from Michigan State University College of Law.