Some new things are good, but only if you learn how to use them.


Along with announcing the roundabout you may see a sign indicating the desired speed. Even without this sign it is best to reduce speed when approaching and transiting a roundabout.

A modern roundabout in the U.S. is a circular intersection where drivers travel counter-clockwise around a center island. There are no traffic signals or stop signs in a modern roundabout. Drivers select the proper lane as shown on an advisory sign, yield to traffic when entering and then exit at the desired street. This enables a right turn, thru traffic, a left turn or a U turn.

Traffic circles have been present since the late 1800s. With the advent of motorcars, they became more widespread in the early twentieth century, especially in Europe. The modern roundabout was designed in England in the 1960s. In France one in 35 intersections are served by a roundabout, the most in the world. In the U.S. the ratio is closer to one in a thousand. Today roundabouts can be seen worldwide.

The first modern roundabouts in the U.S. were built in the 1990s to regulate traffic at an intersection that would be governed by a traffic signal or a four-way stop. Their aim is to increase the flow of traffic, reduce pollution, and limit the severity of accidents. This is accomplished by allowing vehicles traveling in the same direction at a slower speed to proceed without coming to a full stop if there is a suitable break in traffic.

Some rules for safe transit of a roundabout:

Standard dual lane roundabout lane sign.

1. When approaching, slow down and select the appropriate lane depending on the exit you are planning to take. The options for each lane will be posted on a black and white sign or on the pavement. Warning! If you are entering from a two-lane road and the thru street is two lane, you may turn right or exit the thru street from the outside lane. From the inside lane you can proceed thru, turn left or make a U turn. If the thru street is reduced to one lane you will be forced to turn right from the outside lane. You will see other traffic patterns posted in a similar manner — be alert!

2. Yield to traffic already in the roundabout (to your left), do not change lanes in the roundabout, and exit according to the options posted for the lane.

3. Signal your intent to exit the roundabout as soon as you pass the street before your exit. If you are driving in the left lane, be aware of other vehicles that may be on your right.

4. Yield when pedestrians are in a crosswalk.

Right: For a right turn always approach in the right lane.
Straight: If you are driving straight you may choose the center or right lane according to the lane information sign and if the thru street is two lane at the exit. (Do not change lanes.)

The introduction of a roundabout at an intersection that you have navigated for years as a four-way stop can be a blessing especially if the traffic is heavy in the direction you are heading. It means you can usually proceed straight ahead while only pausing to see that all is clear on your left. If you are on the less traveled cross street you might not be as pleased. If traffic is relatively light in both directions it moves smoothly.

A driver must enter a roundabout in the correct lane. This can be a challenge if you are unfamiliar with the road. Do not change lanes while in the roundabout and do not exit left if you are in the right lane. Doing that could violate the right of way of another car and lead to a collision. The only safe solution is to get off the roundabout legally and re-enter choosing the lane appropriate for the exit you want. Planning and practice are key elements for safe driving.

Left: If you are turning left, choose center lane (do not change lanes).
U-turn: If you are making a U turn or completing circle stay in the center lane.

The standard for passing is to avoid passing a bus or large truck on the right. Better advice is NEVER pass in a roundabout unless you are in the inside lane.

Roundabouts are said to reduce injury accidents by 75% compared to intersections controlled by stop signs or traffic lights.


By Savvy Senior

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3 thoughts on “Going in Circles?

  1. Great article. You might have mentioned that our Carmel is number one in the US in roundabouts per unit demography!

  2. Washington ,D.C. has had roundabouts for years, only we called them “traffic circles”. Dupont Circle is probably our most famous because of the prominent people who lived nearby It was not too far from the White House,

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