How To Safely Enter and Drive Through a Roundabout
Depending on where you live, roundabouts could very well be in your community. Some communities are adding roundabouts where traffic-lighted intersections once were or where stop sign intersections once were. If you’re thinking roundabouts are new, they aren’t. They have been around for years. Roundabouts were first constructed in North America over 100 years ago and in Europe in the 1800s in the form of traffic circles.
Some of the changes we make in our communities for drivers can be made with open arms, but some of these changes mean we have to relearn how to drive. One thing to realize, roundabouts are not the same as regular intersections and therefore need to be treated differently. Understanding the rules will help to make the transition easier. Roundabouts are much safer for drivers compared to traffic lights or stop sign intersections. Here is a breakdown of how they work and what you need to do in order to drive through them safely.
Are Roundabouts Safe?
Roundabouts are quite safe if you use them correctly. The basic rule for roundabouts is to never drive beside another vehicle when you enter. This is in case they have chosen the wrong lane or begin to drift over into your lane as they move throughout the roundabout. It would be a good idea to let the driver next to you pass before you enter, or you get slightly ahead of them. What this means is that drivers can enter a multilane roundabout, typically with space on their sides. This will help them make their exit out of the roundabout and onto the new road much easier. This is especially true when large trucks are entering the roundabout. They will often go into both lanes at some point because of their size.
Choose The Correct Lane
To help to make it a smooth experience, it would be helpful for you to choose the correct lane before you reach the roundabout since lane changes are prohibited and dangerous while driving in the roundabout. These information signs are quite visible before you reach the roundabout, especially since you know they are there. All you have to do is look for them. These signs can help you make the proper choice early.
Use the left lane to turn left around the roundabout or if you intend to go straight. You should use the right lane to turn right at the first exit or intend to continue straight after the roundabout. You should not enter a roundabout from the right lane if you intend to turn left as lane changes in a roundabout are illegal. Cyclists would typically keep to the centre of the appropriate lane or dismount and use the roundabout as a pedestrian would. If you are driving behind a cyclist, give them enough space as you would anywhere else until you exit the roundabout.
One of the advantages of roundabouts is that there is typically less waiting for openings to make it across the path of traffic while leaving the roundabouts, compared to waiting to turn at a traffic light. One of the most dangerous things many drivers will do is make a left turn at a traffic light where they can be injured and the vehicle damage is great. This risk can be avoided at roundabouts.
In the worst-case scenario, if there is a collision at a roundabout, it would be at a lower speed compared to traffic lights since drivers will have to reduce speed in most cases before entering the roundabout and any possible injury could almost always be avoided. Since it is very rare for vehicles to stop at a roundabout, it does help to keep traffic moving along and avoid delays in reaching your destination.
Approaching the entrance of the roundabout, do a visual check of any vehicles already in the roundabout and any vehicles waiting to enter it. You should also do a visual check for cyclists since they could possibly be in your path in the roundabout. Traffic that is already in the roundabout should be given the right-of-way. When preparing to enter the roundabout, watch for the vehicles approaching on the left. Since there are yield signs at the entrance of roundabouts, you may need to adjust your speed or stop at the yield sign if it is necessary.
There is no need to signal to enter the roundabout since you are following the road. Just like you would not signal while driving around a curve in the road. However, signaling to leave the roundabout is always a good idea so as to let the driver who is approaching the roundabout know that you’re leaving. This will let them know they can take their turn entering the roundabout.
A right signal is what is required when exiting the roundabout, even if your intention is to go slightly around the roundabout. Some may feel a left sign is needed since that is what is required at a traffic-lighted or stop-sign intersection. A left signal will only confuse other drivers and cause a delay in their entering it. If you think about it, you are moving the steering wheel to the right when you are exiting, so a right signal makes sense.
Watch For Pedestrian
As with any other intersection, roundabouts are a special kind of intersection. It is important to keep watching for pedestrians as you approach the roundabout and as you approach your exit. Pedestrians should wait for a gap before crossing the road at the roundabout if at all possible. There are no electronic walk symbols and lights at a typical roundabout, so ensure you walk when safe to do so if you’re a pedestrian. There are often signs indicating to watch out for pedestrians and to yield to them. Keep an eye out for these as you approach the entrance and exit of the roundabout.
The more you drive through roundabouts, the more you will appreciate how they work and how safe they really are. Like anything else, practice driving through them so you can feel comfortable and confident with them.