NEWS 37th Street roundabout semi-trailer accident worthy of study | Comment

37th Street roundabout semi-trailer accident worthy of study | Comment

Periodically, it seems, a semi-trailer towing a trailer overturns at the roundabout at 37th Street on Route 275 West in Norfolk. That doesn’t mean the roundabout is a bad idea, but it’s worth a look to see if it can be made safer.

Whenever this happens, the driver and other vehicles are at risk. If the trailer happens to be transporting livestock, that can make the situation even more dangerous. So, to everyone who has contacted the Daily News in recent months about these incidents, we agree that it’s worth the attention of the city of Norfolk and the Nebraska Department of Transportation to see if there’s anything they can do to make the intersection safer.

Consider some of the accidents at the following roundabouts, all of which involved livestock trailers or other moving loads. The pig escaped and was injured last week when the trailer overturned. In September, another trailer carrying livestock overturned. In June, a semi-trailer loaded with trusses overturned when the load appeared to have shifted. In June 2017, a livestock trailer overturned, killing several pigs and forcing others to be rounded up. In August of that year, several pigs were killed and others were injured or overwhelmed during the load shift.

We know of other incidents, some of which were reported by the Daily News and others that may not have been covered by all media outlets. Each time, traffic was delayed or diverted until livestock was fenced in and the accident scene cleared.

One of the suggestions shared with us was that it would be helpful to have better visibility signs to warn drivers, especially if speeds need to be reduced. Maybe the sign could be a blinking LED light?

Another suggestion is the so-called high-speed trailer. They are often placed in locations where there seems to be a lot of speeding. Some towns along route 275 between Norfolk and Omaha have them quite often, and they do seem to help. Almost everyone has seen them at Scribner or West Point or Wiesner at some point and watched people slam on the brakes with the lights flashing and say they were going too fast.

Maybe no signs are needed, but more enforcement? People slow down when news comes out that motorists might get a ticket for speeding at a roundabout.

Unfortunately, since all livestock and truck traffic uses the roundabout to deliver goods to Norfolk or beyond, there is no way around it.

We know roundabouts are efficient. They keep traffic flowing and most accidents involve low speed driving and minor injuries. We also know that sometimes people get confused at two-lane roundabouts and try to switch unexpectedly. But in general, we’ve seen this happen less and less as roundabouts have become more common. With a few tweaks, we think the 37th Street roundabout can be made safer.

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