Roundabouts a recipe for mayhem

September 28, 2011
  • Rowland

No, please, if there is a God in heaven, no! I give; uncle; I'll tell you where the gold is buried. You can do anything you want to me, just don't make me drive through one of those horrible, stinkin' roundabouts at the main entrance to Hagerstown Community College.

This has to be a joke. Please say it's a joke. April Fools' Day in October. Does anyone anywhere in this county ever think, for crying out loud?

You want roundabouts? Fine, drive off U.S. 340 toward Brunswick, where they have about four in a row. Oh, that's great fun. It's like "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" in sheet metal. Round, and around, and around we go. Forget the carnival, just rent a sport utility vehicle with a high center of gravity and floor it.

A roundabout out past the hospital at the main entrance to the college? Where they're also building the new senior center?

Let's see, 200 old people, 2,000 teenagers and the occasional ambulance, all tossed in together in a vehicular salad spinner. What could possibly go wrong?

I know the urban legend, but I don't know if it's true: Some Maryland traffic engineer took a vacation in London 15 years back and was so tickled by the roundabouts that he came back and started ladling them into every state traffic project, like some intersectional Johnny Appleseed.

And sure, they work well enough in Europe where people got their start driving around them in their horse and buggies — and where people who are in their automobiles actually pay attention to the road.

But news flash, we're Americans.  Driving is something you do in between talking on the cellphone, applying lipstick and rooting around for the Tater Tot you just dropped between the parking brake and the center console.

To us, there's no difference between a four-way-stop and an algorithm, so please don't give us anything as complex as a roundabout. We can't handle it.

And please spare me those arguments about how we'll get used to it, or how all it will take is a little "driver education."

I don't want my education coming at me in a two-ton F150 at 50 mph.

And I've gone through the roundabout on Mt. Aetna enough to occasionally see some drivers get right smack in the middle of it — and come to a stop. Too much information to process I suppose.

And being at the main entrance to a college, you know half the kids are going to be texting by the time they get to the roundabout. So you'll have half the people who don't know where they're goin', and the other half not lookin'. Good luck with that.

And, of course, college kids are known for their patience. "No, please sir, I insist. You go first. I have plenty of time to make it to my table-busing shift at Red Lobster."

On the upside, teens are legendary for their video-game skills, which is about what you'll need to sail through this atrocity unscathed. Matter of fact, it make a good game itself. "Washington County Roundabout" can go up on the shelf right next to "Grand Theft Auto."

Roundabouts are just one of these liberal ideas that sound good on the surface but don't work out in real life, like tax credits for renewable energy and mercury-free tuna. Traffic lights were good enough for my daddy, and they were good enough for my daddy's daddy — at least if you subtract the dents in his right-front fender.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at Tune in to the Rowland Rant at, on or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 at 6:30 p.m. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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