Park City drivers go around and around traffic circle rules
A driver nears the Old Town roundabout, perhaps after a concert outside Snow Park Lodge or as they head home from a day skiing at Deer Valley Resort.
What the person behind the wheel should do next continues to perplex Park City drivers years after the roundabout debuted as the 2002 Winter Olympics approached. There are regular accidents. Close calls between drivers at the roundabout are frequent. Driver hesitation near the roundabout is commonplace.
The Park City Police Department, as part of a continuing public-relations effort meant to explain misunderstood traffic rules or wider laws, recently posted detailed information about navigating through a roundabout. The Old Town roundabout is the only consequential one inside the Park City limits, but there are others in the Snyderville Basin.
The Old Town roundabout is located at a key spot for people driving in Old Town and Deer Valley. Drivers headed to some points In Old Town as well as upper Deer Valley leave the roundabout headed southbound, those on their way to lower Deer Valley exit eastbound and people driving away from Old Town and Deer Valley move northbound, making the location crucial to Park City’s overall traffic flow.
But confusion remains as drivers wonder whether it is their turn to enter the roundabout as well as which lane they should choose.
“Maybe even one in three or four cars don’t navigate it correctly,” said Jay Randall, a Police Department sergeant who drafts the postings for the agency.
The Police Department posting provides details about roundabout navigation such as:
• yielding to traffic that is moving from left to right and not entering a roundabout until it is clear. A driver may need to stop prior to heading into the roundabout, the posting says. A driver should use a turn signal while moving into a roundabout and exiting one, it says. Randall, though, said the law does not require using turn signals at those times.
• remaining in the designated lane while inside a roundabout and, if a lane change is needed, a driver must use a turn signal.
• not stopping inside a roundabout
• avoiding driving alongside vehicles that are oversized
It also recommends drivers be aware of bicyclists and pedestrians. If a bicyclist is using the roundabout, “view them as a vehicle and yield if necessary,” the posting says.
The posting stresses the use of the two roundabout lanes, another issue that has long befuddled drivers. It says crashes within the roundabout most commonly occur as a result of “people entering into the inside lane (closest to the landscaped area in the center) and then abruptly changing lanes to the outside, without signaling, and failing to yield to traffic in that lane.”
“If you are in a lane traveling in the roundabout, you own that lane only,” it says.
The Police Department, meanwhile, addresses driving through the roundabout at the same time a truck is inside the circle. The trucks sometimes must drive on a section of the roundabout closest to the center, called a gore, an area that appears to be a sidewalk but is not designated as one, the posting says. That keeps trucks from extending into the other lane of the roundabout. The Police Department posting suggests drivers slow down and allow a truck to proceed through the roundabout.
“Traveling next to these vehicles can be hazardous, especially in tight areas like a roundabout . . . you might lose 15 seconds of time, but far less likely of becoming involved in a crash,” the posting says.
On average, Randall said, one accident occurs in the roundabout each month. He said vehicles changing lanes inside the circle without using a turn signal or vehicles failing to yield to others are the most common causes of accidents in the roundabout.
“People think the roundabout’s theirs. They own it,” he said.
The construction of the roundabout was part of a major transportation project in the Olympic era, built as the games loomed and at the same time Park City was amid one of the notable growth eras. It was a sister project to the Old Town transit center, located just west of the roundabout. The roundabout replaced what was considered to be a poorly functioning intersection of Marsac Avenue and Deer Valley Drive. It was also designed to provide easier access for buses moving between the transit center and Deer Valley Drive. Park City officials mounted a publicity campaign as the roundabout debuted in an attempt to provide information about navigating through the circle, but confusion has persisted through the years.
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The Park City police responded to a series of accidents involving drivers and wildlife, indicating at least one of the animals was killed during a collision.