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Slices of Life: Getting 'round to it

Jill Pertler

They are making the rounds on busy roads in cities and towns across the country. Stop signs are just so last millennium. The newest trend in traffic is the roundabout and it has me terrified.

The name sounds so friendly, so casual: "roundabout."

I'll come to your house roundabout 6-ish.

Let's head roundabout to the beach tomorrow.

We walked roundabout the city for most of the afternoon.

The word "roundabout" seems as amicable as an old friend and as relaxed as a prewashed pair of jeans.

It's anything but. A roundabout is fraught with hostile possibilities, uncertainty and confusion.

Do I veer right or left? Do I have the right of way? Should I stop or go? What if I make a wrong turn and end up someplace I don't want to be?

What if I enter the roundabout and can't figure out how to get off? I'll continue to drive in circles forever. I'd be on a never-ending merry-go-round, but in real life, in real time.

From my often confused perspective there is entirely too much unknown and undefined about the roundabout.

Plus (there is no way to say this without sounding uncomplimentary), many drivers are slightly to significantly challenged when it comes to the rules of the road. They don't heed the basics.

For instance, the slow lane is for vehicles traveling at slower speeds. The passing lane is for passing, not for driving alongside another vehicle for miles and miles, engaging in what is known as a "squeeze play" to drivers wanting to pass.

When you travel for long distances on the freeway or highway, it is beneficial to use a new form of technology known as cruise control. Riding your brakes does not benefit anyone. When you come to a four-way stop, you have to keep track of the cars that were there before you so you know when it is your turn because it is impolite to jump ahead in line.

If four-way stops are ripe for motorist dysfunction and aggression, a roundabout is that on steroids. A four-way stop at least demands that you stop — if you want to remain legal. A roundabout gives you permission to continue on your merry way; just try not to hit any of the other cars that are also going along on their merry ways. Good luck with that.

Some (many, most) drivers are aggressive already; roundabouts give them an excuse to speed up and dive bomb their way in front of you, leaving you to slam on your brakes in order to avoid collision causing undue anxiety that distracts you and makes you miss your roundabout exit and you end up lost in some little town somewhere because the roundabout took you right instead of your intended left.

It is for all these reasons I avoid roundabouts at all costs. If I know about or sense one in my future, I make like Siri and revise my route. Roundabout be damned — if I have to go miles out of my way to dodge your confounding merry-go-roundedness, I will. And I do. And I have. Just ask my husband.

Don't deem me a coward. I'm just calling it like I see it. And staying safe, one roundabout at a time.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.