Roundabouts (or "rotundas" as they are more commonly known as in the Philippines) are being touted by the cash-strapped Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) as "an alternative measure to ease traffic congestion". According to a "simulation study", the MMDA foresees a "200% increase in the speed" of areas where roundabouts can be successfully implemented. ABS-CBN News reports that MMDA spokesperson Tina Velasco expects the following specific benefits coming from the increased use of roundabouts in Metro Manila's intersections:
(1) "smoother in design and very efficient when it comes to two or more intersections in major roads"
(2) "less traffic enforcement needed, [and therefore,] less operational cost"
(3) "no electricity" required, presumably because no traffic lights are usually required in roundabout intersections.
(4) "drives people to be more careful, to slow down and be more responsible" owing to its "symmetrical design"
All true, though there are a few behaviours expected of motorists who use these road features:
(i) Motorists need to understand the concept of right-of-way and how this applies to certain rules one needs to know to negotiate a roundabout safely.
(ii) Motorists need to be assured that fellow motorists they share the road with also appreciate right-of-way concepts and observe the same rules when maneuvering through a roundabout.
In right-lane-forward left-hand-drive road layouts (such as what is in effect in Philippine roads), one primary rule applies when negotiating a roundabout:
Give way to vehicles coming from your left.
The following diagrams illustrate the four main situations one might encounter when using a roundabout, and how the above simple rule applies:
In Figures 1 and 2 (below) the driver in the yellow car stops and waits until a car already in the roundabout coming from the left exits the roundabout.
In the case of Figure 2 (below), the driver of the blue car coming from the opposite direction indicates his intention to turn to his left by using his left-turn indicator light. The driver in the yellow car recognises this and remains stopped until the driver in the blue car exits the roundabout.
In Figure 3 (below), the driver in the yellow car now takes the perspective of the driver in the blue car in Figures 1 and 2. As it enters the roundabout, the yellow car can expect the blue car approaching on the right to stop and wait.
The same can be expected of the blue car in Figure 4 (below) coming from the opposite direction if the yellow car indicates its intention to turn left while in the roundabout.
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The Big Question is:
Are Filipino drivers intelligent enough to drive by the same rules?
The above diagrams and accompanying explanations highlight the importance of rules understood and applied universally and consistently amongst elements interacting in a system. Only then can said system work for us.
Systems are only as good as the individual behaviours of the elements interacting within them. Change a system without changing the fundamental behaviours of the elements it will be applied to and you set yourself up for the same sort of dysfunctional outcome that describes pretty much most of the Philippines -- a nation that is one big result of too many actions uderpinned by very little thinking.