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Local drivers may need to learn about roundabouts

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‘MythBusters’ presents more optimistic view than ‘European Vacation’

By KEVIN KOELLING
Managing Editor

SPENCER COUNTY – “Time to adopt it, America,” Adam Savage declares after he and fellow MythBusters star Jamie Hyneman pit a roundabout against a four-way stop on the Discovery Channel television program.

Drivers going from Perry County to Evansville and other points west will get a chance to navigate a roundabout if the Indiana Department of Transportation follows through on a plan to install one on Indiana 66 at South Spencer High School. In response to public pressure following the March death of a high-school senior there, the agency announced two weeks ago it may do that. In the meantime, a temporary traffic light was to replace a caution light.

Unlike “European Vacation” character Clark Griswald, portrayed by Chevy Chase, the MythBusters test-course drivers navigating a roundabout for the first time were able to enter and exit the intersection easily after being given only 30 minutes to practice. Even as that practice session began, the drivers seemed to adapt easily to the new method of passing through a four-way intersection.

Also known as traffic circles, roundabouts are circular roads that drivers enter by turning to the right – in America – when doing so wouldn’t interfere with others already in the circle. They continue driving in a counterclockwise direction until they reach the road they want, then exit.

The misfortunate Griswald in the 1985 film appeared to be near mental breakdown after he was unable to exit the Lambeth Palace Roundabout well after daylight turned to darkness. That circle consisted of two lanes, and he found himself on the inner circle, unable to make his way through vehicles being driven on the outer circle.

Of the noncomedians participating in the MythBusters segment, an average of 385 cars went through a four-way stop in two 15-minute periods, but the average for the roundabout was 420.

Among benefits of a roundabout is that drivers don’t have to stop and wait for a light to change, which they often have to do in traditional American intersections even when no other traffic is present.

Of the 10 votes on a News online poll asking whether a roundabout at the site is a good idea, three respondents said yes, five said no and two weren’t sure. Polls there are unscientific and don’t yield enough responses to be statistically significant.

The Indiana Department of Transportation offers a roundabout simulator at www.in.gov/indot/div/public/vid02.htm. Other examples can be found at Youtube.com by entering “driving roundabout” in the search box.