YORK COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — As more areas of the Midstate get ready to welcome (or not) their first roundabouts, one thing has changed since back when neighbors in Spring Grove were roundly opposed to the region’s first one back in 2007.

The opposition to new roundabouts? Alas, that hasn’t changed. What is different: a trove of local data, from dozens of roundabouts that have opened in Pennsylvania since then, to settle the question of whether they’re really more dangerous than a stoplight or stop sign, as Spring Grove residents feared.

The answer?

“It does slow the traffic down, and it does prevent crashes,” Shelby Smith, a USPS letter carrier who delivers mail in the area said. “I’ve seen a few crashes, but not anything that was major.”

PennDOT statistics back that up. Crashes at the intersection dropped from 29 for the five full years before the roundabout opened (2002-2006) to 20 for the five years after (2008-2012). Injuries dropped from 14 to three. No one has died there or at any other Pennsylvania roundabout.

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The reason the injury and fatality stats are even more impressive than the overall crash statistics, including fender-benders?

“Generally going slower is not an automatic fatality,” Fritzi Schreffler, PennDOT District 8’s spokeswoman said. In other words, almost no one gets broadsided at a high speed in a roundabout, because almost no one is traveling at a high speed — which Schreffler said doesn’t imply congestion.

“It allows the traffic to continue to move instead of backing up in one direction or another,” she said.

So why all the opposition?

“We all like to keep things the way they are,” Schreffler said. And she conceded: “The first couple times you go through it, it’s a little confusing. But after that, you get it.”

Two keys:

  • Remember the first rule of the traffic circle: Vehicles already in the circle always have the right-of-way; everyone outside waits until no one is coming.
  • “Take a quick look at the sign as you’re coming through,” Schreffler said, “and just pay attention. Go slowly through it. If you miss your turn, you can go around, and you still have the right-of-way.”

No matter how many times you have to do it.

“You can have a European Vacation moment where you go, ‘There’s big ben, there’s parliament,’ and you just keep going around and around,” Schreffler said.

Which doesn’t mean you likely will face that at a Midstate roundabout.

Two of the next roundabouts will be in Harrisburg’s, at 7th and Reily (near the new federal courthouse) — that one is due to open by about Thanksgiving — and one in Shermans Dale, Perry Co.