The roads in mid-Missouri are constantly changing, and as a result, familiar routes can suddenly feel foreign.
Intersection designs such as roundabouts, J-turns, and diverging diamond interchanges have cropped up across the region to help create safer and more efficient roadways. But for many drivers these changes can be confusing when encountered for the first time.
“A lot of the people we work with were perfectly happy and comfortable with the roads before all of these changes,” said Beth Koster, coordinator of MU Health Care’s Keep the Keys Program, a driver safety course for people 55 and older. “But now, they find themselves needing to learn how to navigate new obstacles when driving to familiar destinations.”
Koster said aging drivers should practice driving through roundabouts, J-turns and diverging diamonds during a low-traffic time of day, and they should bring a co-pilot along for the ride who can help keep them safe. She also shared the following insights about each challenging intersection design:
- Roundabouts: As you approach a roundabout, slow down and yield to the cars that are already circulating. Then, when a gap in traffic appears on your left, enter the roundabout and follow the circle until reaching your exit. If you miss your exit, simply drive around again.
“It can be difficult to know when it’s your turn to go through a roundabout,” Koster said. “Many people treat them like a four-way stop sign. But when they are used properly, they actually make intersections safer and allow for traffic to flow more smoothly.”
Check out this video from the Missouri Department of Transportation for more information about roundabouts.
- J-turns: The J-turn offers an easier and safer way to cross a busy highway. Instead of waiting for a break in four lanes of fast-moving traffic, you can turn right, merge into the left lane, and then make a U-turn — a maneuver that forms the letter “J.”
“J-turns make you drive a little farther, but once you realize how much safer they are, they actually make a lot of sense,” Koster said.
Learn more about J-turns by watching this Missouri Department of Transportation video.
- Diverging diamond interchanges: These prevent traffic jams at high-volume intersections. But because of their unique appearance, they can be confusing to navigate.
“As you approach a diverging diamond, you might not know what all of the lines on the road mean and which way the traffic is supposed to flow,” Koster said. “You also end up crossing to the opposite side of the road, which can feel pretty confusing to someone who has never driven through one before.”
Watch this Missouri Department of Transportation video to see a diverging diamond interchange in action.