The city of Grand Forks plans to build two roundabout intersections next year.

The city of Grand Forks plans to build two roundabout intersections next year.

Roundabouts are circular intersections without traffic lights or stop signs. Drivers just need to make right-hand turns to enter or leave the circle.

The federal government has been pushing cities to build roundabouts, City Engineer Al Grasser told the Grand Forks Herald. The city will build one near the Columbia Mall and one near new development on the city's south end.

Grasser said studies indicate that roundabouts can be safer, more efficient because they increase traffic capacity, and cost less to maintain than normal intersections because electricity isn't needed for stoplights. Studies also indicate roundabouts reduce the severity of accidents and are safer for pedestrians.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that roundabouts reduce crashes by 37 percent. Accidents resulting in injuries drop by 75 percent and those resulting in deaths drop by 90 percent, according to the institute.

Grasser said the kinds of accidents that can occur in a roundabout happen at slower speeds and at different angles, with crashes tending to be less direct than in other intersections.

Grasser said he expects people to question the need for roundabouts and even oppose them before they are installed.

"We tend to feel uncomfortable with them until we see them operate," Grasser said. "They're different, but they just take some getting used to."

The Grand Forks International Airport already has one roundabout on its entrance road.