Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Rotary and Roundabout


Rotary vs Roundabout

Many folks think that when they see a circular intersection, they always regard it as a roundabout. Well, this is not entirely true as some of these so-called roundabouts (sometimes written as round-about) are actually rotaries. Without the provision of a visual illustration, it may be a little complicated to picture the difference between the two. But when you actually see these two types of circular intersections, you’ll be amazed to know that it’s actually not that hard to describe their unique characteristics.

The more modern roundabouts are said to be advantageous as compared to rotaries (otherwise known as traffic circles) in many aspects. First is on the yield. The limitation with rotaries is that the traffic that enters the circle may get in the way of the circulating traffic. And so, in times of heavy traffic, a gridlock is often to be expected. To help lessen the burden of such a serious obstacle, engineers made it a point that rotaries have bigger circle intersections than roundabouts for it to offer longer weaving distances. The scenario is different in roundabouts in the sense that the entering traffic will yield to the overall circulating traffic. This is one of the reasons why roundabouts are more efficient than rotaries during times of heavy traffic. Also in this connection, weaving distances are not that necessary, which is why roundabouts are created to become smaller circular intersections than rotaries.

The next advantage of a roundabout design is its deflection. This circle creates a form of deflection area around the so-called “central island” (the area formed by the inner circle of the intersection) which helps control the vehicles’ speed. In so doing, accidents are reduced significantly. This deflection also creates traffic gaps that make it easier for other vehicles to enter the intersection. By contrast, the rotary seems to have an inconsistent design which permits high-speed traffic. The fast-entry traffic also narrows the gap which leads to serious high-speed accidents.

In roundabouts, there is what you call the flare design. This allows for an improved traffic capacity at the intersection. With the flare, the intersecting streets need not be wide, thus saving the government’s need for more land and money. Because of the poor entry traffic condition in rotaries, the flare may be useless in such an intersection. Thus, rotaries need to have wider streets in-between the circles which is actually an additional setback for both land and money.


1.Roundabouts are more modern and efficient than rotaries.
2.A gridlock is more common in a rotary style circular intersection.
3.Rotaries have bigger circular intersections and offer longer weaving distances.
4.There are fewer accidents (lower crash rates) happening in roundabout intersections than in rotaries.
5.The intersecting streets in a roundabout are usually narrower.

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  1. We’ve had rotaries in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts for æons. As far as I know, they all have the same rule as the modern roundabout: yield to the guy already in the circle.

    • I agree. The rotaries in Massachusetts where I grew up had the same rule, yield to traffic already in the rotary.

  2. Very Well Done! #Rounadbouts

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