For many drivers, roundabouts remain a bit mysterious. Where did they come from? What’s the point? How do they work?

Roundabouts made their big entrance in Newport a few years ago, suitably, with one at each of the city’s main entrance points – one where Fourth and Fifth streets converge at the base of the Fourth Street/Veterans Memorial Bridge, and another by the Taylor Southgate Bridge at York and Third streets. They were part of a larger KY. 9 project that has been in the works for nearly a decade.

Roundabouts have been popping up in the region for a while. Now there are about 30 of them, with one of the first and most prominent being at the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge’s Cincinnati entrance. The first roundabout in the country appeared in Nevada in 1990, but modern roundabouts have been used in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe since the 1960s. France has the most roundabouts of any country in the world.

What Roundabouts Really Do

A common misconception about roundabouts is that they are designed to prevent car accidents. That is not true. What they are really meant to do, and what studies show that they do quite effectively, is reduce the number of serious, injury- and fatality-causing car accidents. Roundabouts make T-bone accidents and head-on collisions much less likely than they are at other intersections.

As a bonus, roundabouts are environmentally friendly because they do not require that drivers stop and wait, burning gas in the process. Instead, traffic just keeps moving through.

Although roundabouts often face opposition when they are being built, once they are established and the community learns how to use them, they are accepted and drivers are more open to adding them elsewhere in the community.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has put together a series of videos and brochures to help drivers navigate these new traffic features.