When government spins us in circles

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The evidence is in - now can we quit building those dumb roundabouts?

ON THE LONG LIST of things government does to annoy people, taxation undoubtedly will be at the top for everyone.

For good reason. Think about it.

When you wake up in the morning you are being taxed for the privilege of sleeping in the house in which you live. When you flip on the light in the bathroom and run the water for a shower, you are being taxed for the utilities you use. When you hop in the car for the commute to work you are being taxed for the registration and license to own the vehicle. When you arrive at the shop you are being taxed for the income you derive from work. When the day is over and you gas up so you can do it again tomorrow you are being taxed for the fuel. And if you stop for a bite on the way home you're being taxed for the food you eat.

Crazy thing is, government - from the schoolhouse to City Hall, statehouse to the feds - constantly complains about never having enough money to go around.

SO IN THAT LARGER SCHEME of things this may seem a more minor annoyance. We're talking about traffic roundabouts.

Ever since the design started causing Wisconsin traffic engineers to fall madly in love, we've been echoing the complaints we hear from the common working folks who must traverse these goofy things. People think roundabouts are silly. They think roundabouts are confusing. They think roundabouts are ugly. And they think roundabouts are more likely to cause accidents than traditional traffic controls.

Oh, and Americans are not all that enthralled by the frequent refrain that roundabouts are the rage in Europe.

Since when did America start copying Europe?

TURNS OUT FRUSTRATED drivers are right and the traffic engineers are wrong.

The Wisconsin State Journal looked into a study performed by the Wisconsin Traffic Operations and Safety Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The State Journal gathered data on before-and-after accidents for roundabout locations in Madison, and also reported statewide numbers. The finding: The number of accidents went up with the installation of roundabouts.

For example, at Madison's largest roundabout location, the number of accidents has been rising each year making the location the most dangerous intersection in the city. Statewide, the UW center compared 30 roundabout locations before they opened and afterwards. Of the 30, 23 had more accidents with roundabouts than without them.

So what did traffic engineers tell the State Journal?

"Too many drivers still don't know what they are doing in a roundabout," Madison Traffic Engineer Mark Winter is quoted.

Or, perhaps, too many traffic engineers don't know what they are doing when they pick roundabouts over traditional controls.

OK, LIKE WE SAID, roundabouts will never replace being taxed in every aspect of one's life as citizens' biggest annoyance with government.

But it's easier to quit building roundabouts than it is to stop collecting taxes.

C'mon. Throw us a bone.

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