The Doc has reached a perilous milestone: My 15-year-old is learning to drive. One of the hurdles she has yet to clear is driving in a roundabout. We haven't even attempted it yet, and frankly, the prospect makes my hair stand on end. Not because my kid is a bad driver; it's because so many motorists seem to be confounded by roundabout rules that I view the circles as potentially hazardous. As a parent tutoring a child on the rules of the road, it's comforting to know I'm not alone.
Reader Valerie Rice wrote: "We have a 15-year-old with a learner's permit, and my husband and I disagree on the use of the turn signal in conjunction with a traffic circle. If the circle is only one-way, are you to use your signal to indicate your intention to enter the circle? Is the turn signal only used to convey your intent to leave the circle? Given the tight radius on some of the St Pete circles, it would appear a signal as you enter might lead other drivers to falsely assume you are exiting the circle at the first road (what would have been a right turn if there hadn't been a circle)."
Rice says her family routinely uses the new circle on Park Street and, without fail, they encounter vehicles that come to a full stop, whether traffic is present or not. Other vehicles tend to "hover" or hesitate before entering the circle. She says her understanding of a roundabout flow is that one yields to traffic having "possession" of the circle so that two cars entering the circle opposite (or across) from one another may safely enter the circle simultaneously.
This assumption is correct
Here is what Florida Driver's Handbook 2008 says about traffic circles: "Roundabouts are a new type of intersection which improve traffic flow and reduce traffic crashes. Most roundabouts do not require stopping, which allows vehicles to move continuously through intersections at the same low speed. Roundabouts are designed to move all traffic through a counterclockwise direction. Vehicles approaching the roundabout yield to circulating traffic, however, drivers must obey all signs to determine the correct right-of-way in the roundabout."
The upshot, said Sgt. Jim Bordner of the Pinellas Sheriff's Office, is that turn signals are not required by law in the context of a roundabout. In fact, they may cause confusion if misinterpreted.
"The whole idea of these circles is to calm traffic, slow speeders and keep traffic flowing. The only time a driver would need to use a turn signal is if the vehicle is exiting the circle by turning off onto a side street rather than following around the circle in a given direction," he said.
Greener beach lights
Some St. Pete Beach motorists have noticed workers toiling on the traffic signals along Corey Avenue recently and called the Doc wondering why the signals are being worked on.
The work is the start of a county project to convert older traffic signals throughout St. Pete Beach, replacing old incandescent lights with light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. Work has been completed on signals at six intersections so far. Officials say LED traffic lights have two main advantages: lower power consumption and long life. The LED lights can last anywhere from seven to 10 years before they need to be replaced. The citywide traffic signal conversion work probably will wrap up in September.
Trolley runs on July 4
The Looper downtown trolley will run its regular service route on the Fourth of July from 5 p.m. to midnight. Because of anticipated holiday volume, two vehicles will be in service, and loops will run every 10 minutes. Regular fare structure will be in effect: 25 cents for adults, and 10 cents for seniors (Medicare cardholders) and disabled riders. Children 5 and under ride free. Downtown visitors are encouraged to arrive early and anticipate heavy traffic just before and after fireworks start (9 p.m., weather permitting). A printable route map of the system is available at www.LooperTrolley.com.
Please e-mail Dr. Delay at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions. Check out Dr. Delay's Bay News 9 blog at www.baynews9.com/DrDelay.html to read more about commuting issues.