Older drivers are more likely than other drivers to be wary of roundabouts, but they also are particularly likely to benefit from them in terms of improved safety. Relative to other age groups, senior drivers are over-involved in crashes occurring at intersections. In 2019, multiple-vehicle crashes at intersections accounted for 40 percent of fatal crash involvements among drivers 80 and older, compared with 20 percent for drivers ages 16-59.
Older drivers' intersection crashes often are due to their failure to yield the right-of-way (Mayhew et al., 2006; Braitman et al., 2007). Since all traffic flows in the same direction at roundabouts and more slowly than at traditional intersections, the consequence for failing to yield is likely less severe at roundabouts. Particular problems for older drivers at traditional intersections include left turns and entering busy thoroughfares from cross streets. Roundabouts eliminate these situations entirely.
Although safety effects of roundabouts specifically for older drivers are unknown, a 2001 IIHS study of 23 intersections converted from traffic signals or stop signs to roundabouts reported the average age of crash-involved drivers did not increase following the installation of roundabouts. This suggests roundabouts don’t pose a problem for older drivers (Retting et al., 2001).
A study in six communities where roundabouts replaced traditional intersections found that about two-thirds of drivers 65 and older supported the roundabouts (Retting et al., 2007). A study of two intersections converted to roundabouts near Bellingham, Washington, found that about two-thirds of drivers 70 and older favored the roundabouts one year after construction (Hu et al., 2014). In both studies, the older drivers were less likely to favor roundabouts than younger drivers.
In another study, signs and pavement markings that improve the path and operational guidance were found to increase the comfort, confidence and perception of safety for drivers ages 65 and older (Lord et al., 2007). For example, a yield sign could have a plaque underneath reading "to traffic in circle," and an advance warning sign could have a plaque with the word "roundabout."
Reprinted with permission from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Please visit here for the original article.