Joe Taschler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Forget about politics. If you're looking for a fight in Wisconsin, start talking about roundabouts.
The circular intersections that have popped up all over the state tend to ignite serious passion among motorists.
“You talk to friends and family and you run into a lot of (roundabout) haters,” said Jim Schwalen, a senior vice president at West Bend Mutual Insurance in West Bend. “It seems to be a polarizing topic. You either love roundabouts or hate them.
“It’s just an interesting topic.”
It's also a big deal in Wisconsin.
"Wisconsin has the most roundabouts of any state on its state highway system," said Andrea Bill, a traffic safety engineer and researcher at the University of Wisconsin's Traffic Operations and Safety Laboratory.
Washington and Indiana might have more when you count municipalities, but for a state highway system, we're tops for roundabouts.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation says there are about 500 roundabouts on the Badger state's highway system. The DOT says the number is probably higher because it does not include every local roundabout.
Bill has studied roundabouts for a decade and what she has found may surprise those who hate the traffic calming systems: the chances of being killed or maimed in a crash fall to almost zero in roundabouts compared with standard intersections.
“Overall, we see fatalities and serious injuries almost go down to nothing” in roundabouts, Bill said. “They don’t eliminate everything," but they do “reduce, overall, fatal and injury crashes by a significant number.”