Fredericton roundabout was safer than average in debut year, study finds

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Fredericton roundabout was safer than average in debut year, study finds

The roundabout on Smythe Street in Fredericton gave many drivers a headache its first year, but it was safer than expected, says a UNB professor who studied the intersection.

Prof. Eric Hildebrand, along with student Caitlin Sowers, used video from a drone to study traffic in the roundabout, which opened in September 2015.

"We had a wonderful opportunity to study how Fredericton drivers adapted to a two-lane roundabout," Hildebrand said. 

"We had the chance to have a look at these drivers who effectively had no experience with a two-lane roundabout, and we wanted to see how quickly they got up to speed."

Hildebrand presented his findings to the Fredericton transportation committee meeting on Tuesday, saying the roundabout on Smythe Street was actually safer than what would be expected for a similar roundabout.

A roundabout like this one would normally see about 28 collisions a year, he said.

The Smythe Street roundabout saw 39 collisions, but only because there was much more than the usual amount of traffic going through in the summer, rerouted from construction on Regent Street, Hildebrand said.

If the collision numbers in June, July and August are replaced by the average numbers from the rest of the year, there were only 23 collisions in the roundabout its first year, he said. 

"If the city contemplates building a two-lane roundabout at some other locations I think the news is fairly good," he said.  

Top problem could be fixed

The roundabout is on Route 8 but draws traffic from Smythe Street and Bishop Drive. Hildebrand said the first couple of months came with a lot of driver errors, but those quickly levelled off. 

"When the roundabout first opened, about eight per cent of drivers were making some kind of an error going through the roundabout, but within 15 to 16 weeks or so, that driving error rate dropped to about two per cent," he said.

Hildebrand expects people will get more comfortable the more they use the intersection. The main problem now is that people are changing lanes within the roundabout, which is not allowed. 

He said if the dotted lines within the roundabout were changed to solid lines, drivers might not think they were allowed to pass.

"It's going to be up to the city staff to see whether or not there's an opportunity to improve on that or not."