Accidents spur roundabout changes

Love them or hate them, the roundabouts in Malta are here to stay. They can be changed, however, as is the case with one circle at the intersection of Route 9 and 67 that the state Department of Transportation says has seen an abnormal number of accidents.

There have been 118 accidents on the two-lane roundabout since it opened in September 2006, according to the DOT. Though most have not been serious, the department will be making the right lane of the roundabout exit only for east-and-westbound motorists to make it simpler to navigate.

In addition, the 30-mile-per-hour speed zone on Route 9 approaching the roundabout has been pushed farther south.

It's hoped the changes will bring accidents down, as the number is unusually high for two reasons, said DOT Spokesman Peter Van Keuren.

"There are aggressive motorists out there and there were features in the old roundabout configuration that allowed certain aggressive moves like going through the roundabout too fast," he said. "Secondly, we think there's still some motorist confusion as to how to get through the roundabouts."

Accidents on that roundabout and the area north and south on Route 9 has caused the DOT, in conjunction with the New York State Police and Saratoga County Sheriff's Office, to attempt to discourage aggressive driving. The effort began Wednesday, June 17.

Motorists should expect an increased police presence that will be paying special attention to classic signs of aggressive driving such as following too closely, speeding, unsafe lane changes and failure to yield to other vehicles, said State Police Troop G Traffic Supervisor Sgt. Daniel Larkin.

"We will be focusing on the aggressive driving behaviors that are causing the crashes," he said. "It's about safety, not about writing tickets." (Though motorists who violate traffic laws can expect those, too.)

The DOT has identified two corridors where aggressive driving accidents are high every summer since 2003. In addition to the stretch of road in Malta leading to the Saratoga Springs City line, there will be an effort in Queensbury. There will be increased patrols through September.

Proponents tout roundabouts as a more fuel-efficient traffic control device than stoplights, as vehicles rarely sit idle. Accidents also tend to be low speed, sideswipe accidents causing minor damage. Critics often say the circles are confusing and cause more accidents.""

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