Be cautious as drivers learn the new pattern
A busy intersection near the Victoria Park neighborhood on DeLand’s south side is now a roundabout.
As of Monday, April 11, the traffic signals are gone at the intersection of Orange Camp Road and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Beltway. Drivers are urged to be cautious.
The changes to the intersection come as part of bigger changes to the route leading toward Interstate 4, which includes expanding Orange Camp Road to four lanes.
“The project also will include repair of a 10-foot concrete multi-use trail, 5-foot east and westbound bike lanes on Orange Camp Road and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Beltway, and pedestrian crossing and curb and gutter improvements,” a statement from Volusia County spokesman David Hunt said.
Roundabouts are safer than average intersections with traffic lights, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.
Roundabouts cause less delay, according to the FDOT, because fewer vehicles come to a complete stop, and roundabouts are also the site of fewer severe traffic crashes than typical intersections.
Additionally, the FDOT says, roundabouts are more environmentally friendly, and they save money — cars don’t burn gasoline while stopped at signals, and traffic lights require much more upkeep than a roundabout.
A roundabout might have all of that going for it, but many in the community aren’t too happy.
DeLand resident and former Beacon account executive Janet Dixon lives in a neighborhood of the Victoria Park housing subdivision at the newly changed intersection.
The Beacon spoke with Dixon one day into the new traffic pattern, and she already said she wants to avoid the intersection as much as she can.
If it’s going to be a benefit, she said, people are going to need to learn how to use it.
“I think a roundabout can be helpful, but they need flashing lights and monitoring,” Dixon said. “People are flying through here. There’s going to be wrecks.”
Plenty of unhappy DeLandites sounded off on social media, too.
“Roundabouts absolutely work better and flow traffic more efficiently IF you know how to actually drive in one!!!” one commenter among nearly 350 wrote on a post from the City of DeLand about the new roundabout.
“Well, let’s hope that this will start to deter the huge population boom we’ve been having,” another commenter said. “These ridiculous additions to our city might just do the trick.”
Not everyone was so negative about the new addition, but many feared that DeLandites simply don’t know how to use a roundabout.
As for the roundabout planned not too far north of this new one, at the intersection of Kepler Road and State Road 44, it’s still a ways off. Funding has not yet been secured for construction, a FDOT spokesperson told The Beacon.
VIDEO COURTESY TED BEILER/PIGEON’S VIEW PHOTOGRAPHY
ROUND AND ROUND — This drone video shows DeLand’s latest roundabout in-use the day it opened. While DeLand Public Safety PIO Ava Hanner said there were no car wrecks reported the first day the roundabout opened, a motorcycle-rider comes pretty close in this video.
Roundabouts aren’t perfect, but they do improve traffic safety
Curious about the effectiveness of roundabouts and why they’re used?
Now-retired Florida Department of Transportation District 5 Safety Specialist Joan Carter explained, first, that Florida roundabouts aren’t like the ones up North.
“Many of our new residents are from the Northeast. They are familiar with traffic circles, the proto-roundabout design from the mid- and early-1900s. Traffic circles often are very large, with faster traffic movements and multiple lanes. They often baffle people who enter them. FDOT does not use them.”
Carter said modern roundabouts come in different flavors.
“Mini roundabouts are tight-diameter designs that are used only in low-speed, limited intersection rights of way. Good design makes them a decent alternative to stop signs or traffic signals, either of which should be installed only when volume and conditions meet installation warrants,” she said.
But whether small, or large, like the new one at Orange Camp Road, the speed reduction in a roundabout cuts the chances of a serious crash.
“Intersection crashes come in several flavors: rear-end, angle, head-on, T-bone, sideswipe etc. The most devastating in terms of human damage are head on, T-bone and angle,” Carter said. “If you’ve imagined what happens, you can easily see how entering a roundabout and navigating it reduces the number and angles of potential conflict. Roundabouts set up the situation for closer attention, lower impacts (slow speed) and more limited vectors for impacts to occur.”
They’re not perfect, though. One downside to a roundabout is that traffic, instead of grouping at stoplights, is more constant. This means pedestrians have fewer guaranteed opportunities to cross the street without vehicles barreling toward them, and that vehicles wanting to pull onto the roadway a short distance from the roundabout don’t have large clear gaps, either.
Plus, people sure aren’t fond of changing an existing intersection to a roundabout.
“Faster speeds and unfamiliarity with exit points can make circles confusing. When they are old-design circles, signage can be dreadful,” Carter said. “Some people just don’t like new ideas or processes. Sometimes bad design sets a lousy tone.”