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WARNING: How to Drive Through a Roundabout (The Correct Way)

These crazy circular roads are popping up everywhere, from large cities to small towns in the middle of nowhere. You happily bop down the road, and suddenly, you must figure out which lane you need to continue going straight through a circle. So let’s get it straight. How do you drive through a roundabout?

What Is a Roundabout?

Welcome to the new world of driving with roundabouts. Dictionaries define the term as circuitous or indirect. In the traffic world, it is better defined as a circular roadway where vehicles come together around a central location with exit points to connecting roads. However, drivers may consider traffic circles a complicated mess.

Whether or not we think they should stick to their country of origin — The United Kingdom — roundabouts are probably here to stay. Thus, we should probably know what to do when encountering one. 

Aerial still featuring the Washington Square Rotary Clock and roundabout near Union Station in Worcester, Massachusetts. Authorization was obtained from the FAA for this operation in restricted airspace.

What Should You Do When You Approach a Roundabout?

First, relax. It’s a road, not a crater. You will come out of it alive. As you approach the roundabout, be aware of the number of lanes and where you want to end up when through the roundabout. 

Next, slow down to the posted limit. If there’s not one posted, a good number is around 15 to 20 miles per hour. Slowing down and getting in the correct lane sooner than later can save you and other drivers some frustration.

How Do You Know Which Lane to Be in on a Roundabout?

The lane you’ll need to be in when approaching the roundabout depends on where you want to end up when you exit the roundabout. If taking the first exit, get in the far right lane. 

The second exit usually takes you straight through the circle. If going this way, generally, you can choose either lane as the inner and outer ones can exit the roundabout.

If you need to go all the way around to make a left turn, get in the left-hand lane before entering the circle. Then stay in the inner lane through the roundabout. That option will typically lead into the exit lane. If not, it will direct you to slide right out of the inner lane into the third exit.

The main authority on which lane to be in is the signs directing you as you approach and enter the roundabout. Follow the lane requirements, and you’ll be an expert in no time.

Is It Illegal to Drive All the Way Around a Roundabout?

Circling through a roundabout might be a bit of fun — a miniature racetrack of sorts. Maybe you’ve watched while Clark continuously drives around and around trying to get to Big Ben in the classic movie “European Vacation.” But do we really want to be that guy?

While nothing specifically states driving all the way around a traffic circle is illegal, some consider it careless driving if done more than once. To prevent circling because you missed your exit, we’ve got some helpful rules for you to follow to get you safely through a roundabout.

How to Drive Through a Roundabout

Now you know how to approach a roundabout and which lane you should be in. You also know it’s not wise to keep circling around and around again. But how do you drive through it? Keep on reading to learn more.

Reduce Your Speed

When traveling through a traffic circle, you must reduce your speed. This speed reduction without stopping allows traffic to keep moving without causing accidents or jams. Also, watch for pedestrian traffic when entering and exiting.

Yield to Anyone in the Roundabout

This rule, also known as yield at entry, is probably the most important rule of traffic circles. The circulating vehicles always keep moving.

Therefore, anyone wanting to enter the roundabout must wait until they have a safe gap. You should always yield even if you don’t see a vehicle approaching. You never know when one may turn the corner.

Always Give Way to the Left

Give way to the left and go with the flow of traffic. This means if someone is in the inside lane and has a turn signal on, you need to yield to that vehicle as it needs to exit the roundabout.

Use Your Signal

Just as with any turn, always use your turn signal when you exit the roundabout. This allows motorists behind you to know that you need to leave. It also tells motorists waiting to enter the roundabout to yield and prepare to enter.

Know When to Use the Inside Lane

The inside lane of a roundabout is probably the most confusing one. If you need to make a left-hand turn, usually at the third exit, then you should get in the left lane when approaching the traffic circle. Then enter from the left lane straight into the inside lane.

And then, as in any exit from a roundabout, use your turn signal to signify that you need to exit the roundabout. When you need to make a U-turn, keep your left turn signal on throughout the circle and stay in the inside lane until you exit.

Use Roundabouts with Confidence

Now that you know all the details about traveling safely through a circular roadway, you can confidently drive through one. Always follow traffic circle rules by reducing your speed, choosing the proper lane, yielding upon entry, and using your turn signal to exit. 

Larger traffic circles with more than four exits or three lanes can be more tricky. Pay attention to all posted signage and drive slowly. Also, check for people crossing the street at any of the connecting roads. Following these rules will keep you safe. Leave the race car driving to the professionals.

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