SEBRING - This summer, the rules will change for three Highlands County traffic circles.
There were two problems, said County Engineer Ramon Gavarrete: the first was that northern drivers were used to the traffic circle controlling the right of way.
"They come to this county and found out, sometimes the hard way, that the traffic circles do not operate here the way they do everywhere else," Gavarrete said.
The second problem was more complex: in downtown Sebring, circle drivers have the right of way. In Lake Placid and the two Sun N' Lake circles, the thoroughfares controlled the right of way.
"It's very simple," said SNL improvement district General Manager Mike Wright. "They're going to a traditional circle pattern where entering cars yield to cars in the circle. Ramon suggested and the Board of Supervisors agreed."
"The circle has to have the right of way," Gavarrete said. "Yield to the traffic in the circle. You can move a lot more traffic that way."
"We've had a few people complain. I've lived here 40 years. I didn't have a preference one way or the other," said Lake Placid Mayor John Holbrook. "We're just getting consistent with Sebring."
The traffic pattern in downtown Sebring changed in March 2006 when the Florida Department of Transportation removed yield signs on the circle in favor of signs on the spoke streets.
"The reason to get on the circle is to get off the circle, so you should have the right of way," Sebring Mayor George Hensley said at the time. "Constantly, drivers would go around the circle and weren't looking for the yield signs, which (were) on the left."
Road work has already commenced in Lake Placid, Holbrook said. "We hope it will help with the school buses and the school crossing guard there on West Interlake. They're widening and putting in turn lanes west to Tangerine."
After construction is finished at the end of summer, the yield and stop signs will change, Gavarrete said.
The cost is minimal, Gavarrete said: $150 per sign, and 30 cents per liner foot for striping.
"But this will make it safer and more efficient," Gavarrete said.