A roundabout (also known as a traffic island) is a road circle joining three or more roads. Drivers follow a simple rule to avoid accidents.
In the UK where we drive on the left: At the island you must give way to traffic coming from your right as they have priority.
The driver goes round the island in a clockwise direction.
Roundabouts aren’t just tricky for learner drivers, many experienced drivers with years of driving under their belt can find these sections of road the hardest to manage. Thankfully, there are a number of rules to keep you and other drivers alike safe.
The aim of the roundabout is to keep the traffic flowing, but this can only be achieved if everyone on the roundabout keeps to these rules. Among these are rules on how to signal on approach to and when coming off of a roundabout.
You can read up more on roundabouts in the highway code.
Priority You should give way to traffic from the right on a roundabout. As you approach, look to the right and all around to anticipate your opportunity to go and to the left to see where you need to steer or position the vehicle.
Try and approach the roundabout so that you can if possible keep the car moving. Obviously there are going to be times when you need to stop. You can proceed without stopping if the way is clear. Where there are traffic lights, priority is determined by them and some roundabouts have traffic lights in them to control the flow of traffic and co-ordinate priority. You must respond to these lights and stop the vehicle at the appropriate markings. You must also keep the keep clear markings clear when traffic is heavy.
When turning left on a roundabout, you are aiming to take the first exit. Therefore you should already be positioned in the left-hand lane on approach. You should check your rear view mirror and left hand mirror before signaling left (MSPSL) and before you enter the roundabout. Then keep signalling left as you go around keeping to the outside of the roundabout. Make sure you stay in your lane! Only cancel the signal once you have completely exited.
Going straight over
When going straight over a roundabout (usually classed as the second exit or straight on or at 12 O’clock) you should position your car in the left-hand lane (unless road markings tell you otherwise – sometimes they may inform you that the left-hand lane is for turning left only).
When going straight on you do not need to signal before entering the roundabout (unless signalling to get into the correct lane) and should only start signalling as you pass the last exit before the one you plan to take. This is to inform drivers waiting to join the roundabout that you will be continuing past them.
As soon as you have passed all other exits, check your mirrors again and signal left to let everyone know that you’ll be exiting at the next turn-off. Only cancel the signal once you have left the roundabout.
When turning right on a roundabout, ensure that you are in the right-hand lane on approach, and check your rear view mirror, right hand mirror and signal right before you enter the roundabout.
Continue to signal as you enter the roundabout and stick to the inside of of it, you may find on larger roundabouts that the lane markings naturally help you todrift out towards your exit. Make sure to cancel the signal as you change lane to approach your exit especially if the markings have not drifted you out. Signal left after you pass the last exit before yours. Cancel the signal upon departing the roundabout.
Taking an intermediate exit
Some roundabouts are very large and have many exits. If not taking the first left, going straight over or turning right, you should follow these rules.
Firstly, position your vehicle in the correct lane on approach to the roundabout.
If you are taking an exit beyond straight over, you will likely need to be in the right-hand lane and should signal right too; but, as always, use the road markings to be absolutely correct. Road markings will also let you know if you should alter your position while going around the roundabout.
As soon as your exit is next in sight, ensure you are in the left-hand lane and signal immediately. Once again, only cancel the signal after you have left fully.
How you approach a roundabout depends on it’s shape and size and on the speed and proximity of other traffic. However, it is often appropriate to slow the car down, as part of the MSPSL routine, and choose second at about two car lengths from the line. Whether you engage the gear, or not, depends on whether it is clear from the right. Approach in second gear to proceed smoothly. Changing into second gear at two car lengths from the roundabout is often most efficient. This enables you to proceed smoothly if you find the way to be clear as you approach the line.
Approaching the roundabout in second gear and looking up to the right, you may find that it’s not safe to proceed. In this case you can simply pull up to the line, changing again into first gear and stop the vehicle at the broken lines while you wait for your turn.
When it’s safe to set off, build the speed quickly in first gear so that you’re able to change early. Once in second, your hands are free to steer and signal as required.
Tips on Signalling
Signal timing is very important:
Too early and traffic may think you’re exiting earlier. They may then emerge in front of you.
Too late and traffic may think you’re continuing on the roundabout. This can cause them inconvenience as they plan to join.
Always use the mirrors before signalling.
Cancel the signal if the car doesn’t when you have cleared the roundabout.
Dealing with Congestion on a Roundabout
Where your exit off of the roundabout is blocked, be prepared to hold back and allow crossing traffic to flow. When your exit clears, traffic from your left will hold back and allow you to proceed.
Approaching a roundabout, traffic from the right has priority and should not have to change speed or direction on your account, so smoothly stop at the line and select first gear if this would be the case.
However, do consider that the momentum you have on approach can often provide a great opportunity to slot onto the roundabout ahead of traffic from your right. Assess the relative speeds as you make this decision.
Aswell as observing the traffic to your immediate right, look further around the roundabout and consider any vehicles which they will be giving way to. This will often provide a window of opportunity for you to proceed and can be a crucial opportunity in busy traffic.
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