Indiana House panel advances truck-friendly roundabout rule

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, January 19, 2017

An effort on the move in the Indiana General Assembly covers large trucks that navigate through roundabouts – an increasingly popular traffic pattern in the state.

The House voted unanimously on Wednesday, Jan. 18, to advance a bill to require operators of smaller vehicles to yield the right-of-way to large trucks when driving through roundabouts. The rule would apply when the driver of the smaller vehicle is driving through the traffic pattern at or near the same time.

Roundabouts have grown in popularity in the state in recent years following the U.S. Department of Transportation backing their installation to slow traffic and reduce the frequency of severe wrecks. In fact the city of Carmel located north of Indianapolis boasts the most roundabouts in the U.S. at 100 with another 28 either nearing completion or funded.

“I think a lot of folks in Carmel are pretty happy with them,” Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, testified during a recent House Roads and Transportation Committee meeting. “They keep traffic flowing and moving rather than stopping for stop lights.”

The traffic pattern has also cut down on serious wrecks in the city located north of Indianapolis. However, Torr and Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard say there still is work to be done to better accommodate large trucks as they maneuver through roundabouts.

Photo from Google Earth

A snapshot of a section of Carmel, Ind., showing the many roundabouts in the city.

“Large trucks can’t stay in one lane,” Torr said prior to the committee vote. “They often must navigate both lanes in order to get through the roundabout.

“This bill would require drivers of cars, when they see these vehicles in roundabouts, to give them the right-of-way – rather than getting up beside them where the truck may need to come over into that lane. Slow down and stay behind them.”

HB1039 defines affected trucks as having a minimum total length of 40 feet or a minimum total width of 10 feet.

For occurrences where two large trucks are approaching a roundabout at about the same time, the vehicle on the right is required to yield the right-of-way.

Offenders could face $500 fines.

Brainard says the legislation, and an ordinance approved in December by the Carmel City Council, stems from communication he received from an out-of-state truck driver about a Wisconsin law.

The Badger State law was enacted a year ago to address a Wisconsin DOT study that found roundabouts cut severe wrecks in the state by about one-third, but minor wrecks increased by about 12 percent.

“(The truck driver) suggested we make the same change as Wisconsin. I thought that made some sense,” Brainard told Land Line Now late last year.

He added that the communication with the professional driver “was a great example of a guy who drives an 18-wheeler, who has experience with roundabouts, and wanted to make sure the law was in accordance with what everyone was doing.”

Gary Langston, president of the Indiana Motor Truck Association, also testified in support of the legislation. He said in 2016 there were 91 accidents in roundabouts involving commercial motor vehicles. Most incidents were sideswipes with only one injury resulted, he added.

“The legislation addresses (sideswipes),” Langston said.

He also pointed out to committee members that commercial licenses are highly coveted and the new rule would be welcomed by truck drivers.

“Any mark on those licenses, whether it is their fault or not, is recorded and causes them problems.”

The bill now moves to the Senate.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Indiana, click here.

Land Line Now News Anchor Reed Black contributed to this report.

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