Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard is asking the City Council to pass an ordinance that would require motorists to use turn signals when exiting a roundabout. The proposal — which would have a $100 fine attached — struggled to get support in the Finance and Rules Committee on March 14 and will remain in committee as a result. Councilor Ron Carter, the bill’s sponsor, was the only councilor who expressed strong support for the ordinance.
“I know we’ve gotten some indications from a few folks that they’re not happy with this,” Carter said. “It reminds me of the same feelings we got 102 roundabouts ago when we tried to put in our first roundabouts. I’ve been using my turn signals in roundabouts for about two years and I’ve had no problems. It’s a courtesy and helps things run more smoothly.”
Councilor Jeff Worrell said he has an issue with the fact that the ordinance is more about efficiency and courtesy than public safety. He said he thinks the fine is too much and thinks an educational campaign would be needed to let people know about how to use turn signals in roundabouts, which he admits can be tricky.
“I’ve had a hard time practicing over the few days myself,” he said. “I think we’re using a sledgehammer to change behavior. I’m troubled over an ordinance instead of an educational campaign.”
Councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider detailed many problems he has with the ordinance. He said some roundabouts are so small you barely have time to get your turn signal on. He said you might see motorists incorrectly stopping in a roundabout to get a ticket, which “would be a disaster.” He agrees with Worrell that it’s not so simple to do.
“I tried to use my signal,” Rider said. “You literally have to hold it on. You have a long way to go to get me to support it.”
Councilor Laura Campbell said she thinks it would be confusing to pass this law without signs since it’s not a state law in Indiana. She said it wouldn’t be great for out-of-town visitors to be hit with a $100 fine.
Brainard said he thinks signs aren’t necessary.
“There are a lot of traffic laws that cities are allowed to pass, and we don’t have signs for all of them,” Brainard said. “Lots of other states have these laws, and it is probably something we should take to the state at some point. For the first six months we should have nothing but warnings as an educational campaign. Passing it is an educational campaign.”
Brainard said he’s OK with using temporary signs, but Council President Sue Finkam noted that four signs at every roundabout would be “visual clutter,” she said.
Brainard said he’s OK with amending the ordinance to say that fines wouldn’t be imposed until six months or a year.
“I won’t support this if there’s a fine attached. Period,” Finkam said. “That’s my hard position. I’m just not going to lobby a fine. We’ve done no education.”
Brainard said education will be part of the process and the public will know this law was passed.
“I’m afraid if we don’t pass it then it’ll be an educational campaign that you don’t have to do it,” Brainard said.
Councilors Tony Green and Bruce Kimball were not at the meeting. Kimball told Current he has concerns about the proposal.
“I think it’s a good idea but would be confusing to many and hard to enforce,” Kimball said. “It would further have a negative effect on visitors to the city. I would rather see the enforcement of posted speed limits through roundabouts that I feel would accomplish more in the way of public safety than an ordinance for turn signals.”
Green doesn’t support the proposal, either.
“I did not like the ordinance as it was presented to the council last Monday,” he said.
The proposal will be held in committee because Carter said he doesn’t want to see it voted down. He plans to talk with his fellow councilors and possibly make changes to the ordinance. Both Brainard and Carter offered to drive any of the councilors around to show how the turn signals work.
“Turn signals have been working effectively in roundabouts for years in Europe,” Carter said. “I know there has been some comments from our police officers that it will be hard to enforce, but if we don’t have a standard to enforce and to educate then we don’t really have a mandate to try to get people to use turn signals in roundabouts.”