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Police say they slow traffic, keep it moving
Ripon motorists thread their way through the Wilma Avenue roundabout Thursday afternoon one of some 10 throughout the community. Police say they only seem to be problematic for those driving under the influence. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Roundabout traffic circles designed to slow traffic have brought mostly favorable comments from the public after they got through the learning curve, said Ripon Police First Sergeant Steve Merchant.

Patrol officers have been keeping a close watch on the one at North Ripon and River roads that has been the scene of a number of crashes and one motorcycle fatality. While it was constructed as a traditional roundabout it has four posted stop signs, blinking lights and directional signs for additional safety.

It was earlier this week when Ripon officer Mario Ysit was keeping that intersection under surveillance when a motorist coming into town ran through the roundabout without stopping. The motorist attempted to outrun the officer in what became a three-minute pursuit of a driver without a license and with forged forms of identification.

Merchant said most of the crashes have been caused by motorists who were under the influence when they entered the circular intersections. The motorcycle rider who died after hitting the River Road roundabout one night last year was reportedly traveling at a high rate of speed from the east when he went through the stop sign and flipped into the air several times.

“The crashes are almost entirely substance related, mostly alcohol,” Merchant said.

The sergeant said the roundabouts are safe and do slow down traffic movement without most motorists having to stop for cross traffic.

Merchant said the roundabouts also allow officers to get to calls sooner, not having to come upon backed up traffic at boulevard stops. He added that they have also had an effect on congestion at commute times.

One of the first to be constructed was the large roundabout on North Wilma Avenue near the police department and City Hall. A large clock tower and landscaping have made it a landmark for the community.

As it was being constructed a gunman who had been involved in a domestic violence call across the freeway was stopped when he crashed his car into the roundabout. He had been headed to the police department with his weapons to reportedly even a score after a confrontation with officers. When his vehicle became disabled he ran toward the police headquarters on foot and shot out the glass doors at the front of the building.

The women dispatchers on duty fled to the back of the building using hand-held radios to keep in contact with the officers on the street who arrested the man at gunpoint.