INDIANAPOLIS – Just when Hoosiers thought it was safe to drive into a traffic roundabout, the Indiana General Assembly throws in a curve.
Under a bill awaiting the governor’s signature, drivers of cars would yield to larger vehicles, such as a tractor-trailer or recreational vehicle, when they’re in a traffic circle. When two trucks approach a roundabout at the same time, the driver on the right would yield to the one on the left.
”Larger vehicles have a harder time maneuvering through these roundabouts,” said Sen. Michael Crider, R-Greenfield, Senate sponsor of the bill. “They (truck drivers) are also subject to sanctions if they’re involved in an accident in a roundabout.”
House Bill 1039, which passed third reading in the Senate on Monday, was authored by Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, whose district includes more than 100 roundabouts.
In a brief discussion on the Senate floor Monday, two senators questioned the feasibility of the bill, noting that there was no provision for educating drivers about the shifting of responsibility.
“I just find this very difficult for drivers to understand,” said Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis.
Crider said the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles would post information about roundabout right-of-way on the agency’s website. But the main purpose of the bill, he said, was to make all drivers more aware of the difficulties a truck driver might have in traffic circles.
The bill previously passed the House unanimously and on Monday passed the Senate 31-17.
Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Evansville, questioned how the bill would be enforced by police officers.
“For somebody who drove a truck for 33 years, I don't know why we would want to make this a law,” said Tomes, who is a former union steward. "The people are able to make the decision. ... In these encounters, they can work it out. I've never seen a case where a car wouldn't back up and give the truck preference to get on around."
“I happen to have a high level of confidence in law enforcement to use good discretion when these incidents happen, if they do happen,” Crider said.
After the session, Torr said he had met with Carmel officials and asked that police use discretion in issuing tickets for right-of-way infractions and inform drivers about the change during the next two years.