A roundabout re-education

Police plan saturated enforcement of roundabouts

With the completion of the new roundabout traffic circle at Ninth Avenue and West Washington Street, it’s time the public was re-educated in how to properly use these traffic circles.

Roundabouts are meant to be a safe alternative to traffic signals at intersections, slowing down traffic while moving it along steadily to avoid congestion.

“People gripe about those traffic circles, but the bottom line is — if there’s any kind of power failure, any kind of technical difficulties — the only things that still work and need no manpower or officer to direct traffic are these traffic circles,” Randy Kellas of the Sequim Police Department said.

But that’s when they’re being used properly. Too many times, motorists drive through the center ring of such circles, cutting across, and this jeopardizes the safety of other motorists.

“That’s like driving in the median or on the shoulder,” Sgt. Kenneth Almberg said. He and Kellas make up the police department’s Traffic Safety Division. “You just don’t want to get close to that center part so you don’t hit it or come through there and hit a car that’s in the right lane. People pass other people in traffic circles, and you can imagine how safe that is.”

Rule No. 1: When approaching a roundabout, drivers must reduce their speed and keep to the right of the splitter island, which could be either raised or painted.

Rule No. 2: Yield. When entering a roundabout, drivers must always first yield, only entering the roundabout if there isn’t a vehicle approaching from the left. In Sequim, roundabouts are only one lane, so drivers should never try to enter alongside another vehicle within the roundabout. Think of it as a game of double Dutch, one driver jumps in only after another’s jumped out.

Rule No.3: Unless to avoid a collision, drivers should never stop in a roundabout. Motorists must never stop to allow waiting traffic to enter, and must always keep to the right, traveling in the outer right lane, not the center circle, which is not a lane for traffic. According to the Sequim Police Department, if caught driving in the center circle, motorists will be pulled over for improper lane usage, facing fines up to $412.

Rule No. 4: When exiting a roundabout, motorists should slow down and always indicate their intent by using their right-turn signal.

Drivers should also always be mindful of pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists and large vehicles. Cyclists should be treated like any other driver on the road and should not be passed while in a roundabout. Large vehicles may have a wide swing while using a roundabout, so drivers are asked to give them plenty of room.

According to Almberg, Sequim’s Traffic Safety Division, with assistance from the Washington State Patrol, plans to conduct saturation enforcement at the city’s roundabouts on an unannounced basis.