If you have never heard of roundabouts, Winn can easily describe them for you.
Simply put, roundabouts are circular or semi-circular traffic intersections that eliminate the need for traffic lights or stop signs, thus allowing vehicles to keep moving through the intersection, but at a slower speed. While vehicles do not stop for traffic signals in roundabouts, they must yield for right turns and any other vehicle already in the intersection.
Except for traffic moving straight ahead, drivers wishing to make turns always make them to the right in a roundabout. Direct left turns are eliminated because the roundabouts circle to the left allowing motorists to exit off both sides with a right turn. Roundabout can also be used safely for U-turns.
Roundabouts are not found that much in the United States but are widely used in foreign countries. Although these circular intersections are rare in this country, they can be found in Vail, Colorado and Coral Gables, Florida, plus other states. Georgia even has a few roundabouts.
A roundabout is currently being constructed on Highway 165 in Douglas County, according to Winn, who said there are also a couple of these circular intersections in Cherokee County (Canton).
A couple of simple roundabouts can be found in Carroll County, one in Roopville and one in Whitesburg.
The closest roundabout in this area is found on the Berry College campus at the end of the main entrance in front of Herman Hall, the college’s administration building.
Alan Storey, administrator at Berry, said most people on campus refer to it as the traffic circle but it is definitely a roundabout. He said it keeps traffic moving and has experienced very few mishaps over the years. This particular roundabout is a three-intersection location and does not handle the traffic volume of a four-intersection roundabout that might be found on a major roadway.
Winn believes, with a passion, that these type intersections are safer than the traditional traffic light intersections. “I have traveled a lot and I have seen people die and I would wake up at night, wondering why are these people being killed?”
Winn says the roundabouts would save many of those lives and cut down on serious injuries. He said the intersection at U.S. Highway 27 and the Cedartown Bypass, north of the city, would be perfect for a three-way intersection roundabout. A number of serious accidents have occurred at this site.
According to information provided by Winn, studies have indicated the primary advantage of roundabouts over the traditional intersection is safety. These same studies say the intersections help save fuel and thus cause less pollution for the environment.
The fuel saving is the result of traffic moving through a roundabout and the vehicles not being stopped nearly as much with their engines idling.
Winn is convinced that roundabouts are also much cheaper to build and maintain. The do not require traffic lights that must be maintained and therefore do not require electricity to operate these signals.
The primary disadvantage of roundabouts is that they require more right-of-way because the circular intersection needs more space to function than a conventional four-way stop.
The retired superior court judge has been trying for about seven years to get the Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) to seriously consider changing some of the state’s intersections to roundabouts.
“People, who work with it (highways) will listen but won’t do anything about it,” he said.
Although Winn has had little success with promoting roundabouts, he is not about to give up. In the past, he pushed the idea to former House Speaker Tom Murphy and former Gov. Roy Barnes.
Winn said his efforts were simply passed on to other departments in the state government and apparently forgotten.
But Winn said there is some interest in these intersections with at least one member of the Georgia House who likes the idea. He also plans to see if Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson will introduce the idea to the Bush Administration.
According to a report by Michael J. Wallwork, an engineer in Orange Park, Fla., who has designed these type intersections, “Roundabouts are the most effective traffic calming treatment available. They limit vehicle speeds to and conform vehicle speeds on four streets simultaneously.
“Gateways to communities and main streets are an effective location for roundabouts to slow traffic and create a grand entrance. They can act as a town square with fountains to create a focal point, a place to be. In addition to the beauty, they slow traffic and assist pedestrians to cross the street.”
While the roundabouts, according to Wallwork, can be attractive additions to a community, he explained the safety features. “There are two basic premises on which roundabouts achieve crash reductions of 50 to 90 percent when compared to two and four-way stop control and signalized intersections and greatly reduced severity on those few crashes that do occur.
“One is the simple decision making combined with the low level of conflicts. At a four-way intersection there are 32 possible conflict points and only eight at roundabouts. Pedestrians face six conflicts when crossing only one leg of the road whereas at a roundabout they have only two.”
Another safety feature of roundabouts, according to Wallwork, is they make U-turns very safe.
These and other safety features of roundabouts are what have sold Winn on them.
Winn said there is one in the center of Madrid, Spain and he has also traveled through them in England and Ireland.
The French, according to Winn, are changing a thousand intersections each year to roundabouts. “That’s about the only thing I admire about the French,” he added.
Winn said most large cities have a roundabout or something similar, not by design, but by accident mostly.
Winn previously filed a lawsuit against the state in hopes of forcing it to adopt a program for roundabouts. However, he withdrew that suit. But Winn, who is 82, said he might file the suit again if the state fails to start implementing the use of roundabouts.
The former judge is known in this area for serving on the Tallapoosa Judicial Circuit Superior Court bench for 21 years. Prior to that he served eight years as district attorney.
Winn served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II for three and a half years and came out as a first lieutenant. He later served in the Marine Reserves earning the rank of major.
The former judge is also well known for a book he co-authored titled “Clear Conscience.” Winn and General Raymond Davis of the U.S. Marine Corps wrote the book.
The book, which defends the use of the atomic bomb against Japan in World War II, is currently being translated into Chinese.