Traffic circle

Roundabouts are the scourge of many a motorist and a favorite calming device of traffic engineers, and they're spreading like crazy across the United States roadscape. As anyone who's had the joy of driving in Massachusetts or New Jersey will tell you, plenty of drivers have absolutely no idea when to yield or how to successfully navigate these rings of macadam.

According to The New York Times, the fertile Midwest has sprouted a bumper crop of these sometimes-confusing intersections, with 100 popping up in Wisconsin since 2004, and almost 100 blooming in Kansas, as well. Other states have a richness of roundabouts; Maryland has nearly 200, for example; and there's more on the drawing board across the nation.

Despite a public that's apparently skeptical of the change, there are plenty of positives to roundabouts. Speeds are low, and any crashes that do occur are less severe because the head-on collision is virtually eliminated. Emissions are also purportedly lower because there's less starting and stopping (though drivers waiting in epic backups approaching these things might disagree), they don't require electricity to operate and they keep traffic moving simultaneously in multiple directions. Since they do seem to be the favorite device of traffic engineers, roundabouts won't be going away any time soon, so we're all going to get the chance to try them out. Like brussels sprouts at Thanksgiving dinner, they might even turn out to not be so bad.

[Source: The New York Times | Image: Una Smith via CC 2.0]