More cities and towns throughout the United States are replacing four-way intersections with roundabouts to help with traffic flow and reduce the chances of accidents.
While navigating a roundabout can be daunting and confusing for many people, it's in your best interest (and that of others on the road) that you learn how to safely drive in one. Even if your city doesn't have roundabouts, you may find them in other towns or cities that you visit, so you should learn the rules in advance.
Roundabouts have been proven to be safer than regular four-way intersections since all vehicles are going in the same direction and they eliminate left turns against oncoming traffic — a major cause of accidents. Also, roundabouts force motorists to drive more slowly by their design.
Approach — When approaching a roundabout there will usually be a sign warning you about it, and there will also usually be a yield sign right before it. If you're approaching a multi-lane roundabout there will likely be two signs:
- The yellow "roundabout ahead" sign, and
- A black and white "lane choice" sign that states you need to choose a lane before you enter.
If it is a two-lane roundabout, and you plan to make a right turn at the next street intersecting the roundabout, you should approach in the right-hand lane. If you plan to exit at another street intersecting the roundabout, opt for the left lane.
Before entering any roundabout, slow down and prepare to yield to any vehicles that are already in the roundabout. If there is a crosswalk, look out for pedestrians.
Entering the Roundabout — Yield to any vehicles in the roundabout and enter only when it's clear. The action is akin to when entering a freeway or turning right at a red traffic light.
Navigating the Roundabout — Once you enter, accelerate to the speed limit or the flow of traffic. If there are two lanes, you should stay in the inside lane to keep turning left. The golden rule of roundabouts is to yield to other drivers and stay in your lane. If you change lanes in a two-lane traffic circle, you could cause an accident or backup.
Also, you should never stop when you are in the roundabout. Instead, go with the flow of traffic.
Exiting the Roundabout — When it's time to exit the roundabout, you should signal your intention to do so by using your right-turn signal. Be sure to look for any pedestrians or bicycles that may be crossing before you proceed. If you are in the inside lane, you'll need to plan ahead, signal right, change lanes, and turn left onto your street.
Finally, you should exit the roundabout slowly and safely, making sure to merge into the appropriate lane.
You should always drive defensively and allow plenty of space between your car and the vehicles ahead. If another driver becomes confused and stops their vehicle in the roundabout, be patient and wait for them to proceed.
If a vehicle operator were to attempt to go around a confused driver, added chaos could result, possibly causing vehicle conflicts. So, it's in everyone's best interest to wait for these vehicles, and then continue through the roundabout.
Also, if an emergency vehicle enters the roundabout, if the roadway in the roundabout is wide enough, you should pull as far to the right as possible and allow it to pass. However, it is better to completely clear the intersection and pull off to the side of the road after exiting the roundabout.
While these roundabout (rotary) tips are geared towards a nationwide audience, we here in Massachusetts understand roundabouts, or as we call them circles or rotaries, and recognize their challenges. Defensive driving is always the best way to maneuver ourselves safely in and out of these situations.