Connecting state and local government leaders
Navigating these traffic junctions is so important, the state put a how-to guide on the official roadmap.
Route Fifty Roadmap is an ongoing series of dispatches from the semi-regular travels of the Route Fifty staff around the United States. | PREVIOUSLY: Upper Sandusky, Ohio
COLDWATER, Mich. — When you cross a state border on an Interstate highway, there’s usually a good chance that a rest area or “Welcome Center” will pop up within a few miles.
That’s the case along I-69 heading north into Michigan from Indiana.
When I made a pitstop here recently, I was greeted by a box that said “Free Maps” containing a pile of official Michigan state roadmaps. As someone who likes maps, I naturally took one.
Since I grew up in the Wolverine State, these maps are very much familiar and as a kid, I would spend hours trying to spot differences in the maps from one year to the next.
While Michigan's official roadmap hasn’t changed a whole lot—there are some new freeway connections and the shading designating an urbanized or suburbanized area has expanded to eat up what was once rural farmland, I noticed an interesting addition at the bottom of the current iteration: a how-to guide for navigating the traffic junction known as a roundabout.
The roundabout shouldn’t be all that unusual these days. Lots of state departments of transportation, including Michigan’s, have been pushing to implement them because they are safer than your standard intersection.
Local governments have also been converting traditional intersections to roundabouts—or depending where you are in the United States, a traffic circle or a rotary.
Carmel, Indiana, just outside Indianapolis, is the nation’s roundabout capital.
Still, they can be confusing to drivers who aren’t familiar with them, so in recent years, there’s been a lot of public outreach to educate the drivers, especially in Michigan, where residents are used to the “Michigan Left,” which is not to be confused with the New Jersey Jughandle turn.
According to the Michigan Department of Transportation:
In 2011, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) posted a "how to" video on its YouTube channel showing the proper way to drive in a roundabout. It instantly became one of MDOT's most popular videos.
The key to using a roundabout is knowing what road you are heading for, getting into the appropriate lane (if there is more than one), and then knowing when to yield and when to go. When approaching a roundabout, yield to all traffic inside the roundabout. Once traffic is at a safe distance you may then enter. Look for signs showing which lane you need to be in to reach your destination. Once inside the roundabout, follow around until you find your street to turn on to. Don't forget to use your signals!
Michigan’s roundabout public information campaign extends to the official map, as seen below.
Next Stop: Northeast Harbor, Maine
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Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty.