Motorists urged to stay alert in roundabout

MT. COMFORT — Hancock County’s only two-lane roundabout is causing some confusion among motorists, especially since permanent striping can’t be placed on the new infrastructure until the spring.

Here’s a look at how the new roundabout at Mt. Comfort Road and County Road 300N is faring and tips on how to navigate it:

1. Accidents still happen

Construction lasted throughout the latter half of 2014, and there have been five accidents at the intersection. But that’s not out of the ordinary: the intersection had four to six accidents annually when it was a traditional intersection, said Gary Pool, engineer for the Hancock County Highway Department.

The good thing about the accidents at the roundabout, Pool said, is these are low-speed sideswipes. People might enter the circle when another vehicle is coming, for example, or change lanes and swipe another car. Pool says while he’d like no accidents, at least these are not head-on, high-speed collisions that cause more harm.

2. Pay attention

“Stay alert” is Pool’s top tip for motorists entering the circle. If you’re going straight or to the right, take the outside lane. If you’re going to the left or making a U-turn, take the inside lane. Never change lanes in the middle of the roundabout.

3. Improvements are coming

Temporary striping vaguely marks lanes in the roundabout for now. Permanent, brighter striping will come in the spring. That’s because the air temperature and pavement needs to be at least 60 degrees for the thermal plastic striping to adhere, Pool said.

Meanwhile, Heather Whitaker, principal of Mt. Comfort Elementary School immediately to the east of the traffic circle, said while some safety concerns remain, the roundabout does seem to be moving traffic efficiently.

“It seems to be helping with the backup of our morning traffic,” she said. “We’ll see how it really goes when we get the additional businesses here that are going to bring additional semi truck traffic.”