New roundabouts opened to traffic recently in northeast Modesto, so it's a good time to take a quick refresher course on driving through the circular intersections.
Modesto police Lt. Bill Ryan said there has been some confusion from residents about who gets the right of way, and some questions even have come from police officers.
"It's a new concept; it's going to take some time to learn," Ryan said. "It's going to be a learning curve for the community."
He said each roundabout has posted signs and painted signs on the road to safely guide drivers. Those entering must yield to traffic already inside the roundabout.
Some Bee readers, in letters to the editor, have expressed their confusion and frustrations with drivers learning how to maneuver through a roundabout.
Lou Martin of Oakdale wrote, suggesting the city install a flag on all the yield signs at roundabout entrances with the following advisory message: "Use turn signals when exiting roundabout."
Becky Roberts of Modesto wrote that driving through a roundabout sometimes feels like the tea cup ride at Disneyland. "The faster you go, the crazier it becomes!"
She asked for the city to provide more training for drivers unfamiliar with roundabouts.
The city devotes a section of its Web site to the ins and outs of roundabouts. Some of the features include the traffic safety benefits of roundabouts, how to drive through a roundabout and videos with more information on the functions of roundabouts.
Most roundabouts encompass a four-road intersection, but the new one at Claratina Avenue and Coffee Road replaced an old three-way stop. Now, drivers merge in and out of the roundabout and continue on their way.
That's the basic benefit of constructing roundabouts, Ryan said.
"It forces traffic to slow down, pay attention and get into a flow," Ryan said.
Maintaining a steady, constant flow of traffic eliminates idling cars stopped at an intersection.
The roundabout concept was brought over from Europe, Ryan said, to reduce traffic congestion, pollution, collisions, deaths and injuries.
He said there is no way a driver can travel at a high rate of speed through a roundabout. "You can, but you're going to crash."
Modesto city planners expect to have about 24 roundabouts in the next several years, said Firoz Vohra, deputy director of the Public Works Department. Currently, there are 11 roundabouts in operation and one under construction.
"It's something that people are going to have to get used to," Ryan said.
View the city's roundabout information at www.ci.modesto.ca.us/pwd/traffic/roundabouts/default.asp.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2394.