Few roadway designs incite such passionate debate as roundabouts. Love them or abhor them, the reality is that they’re here to stay in a big way.
One of the reasons that many people are slow to embrace these traffic circles is that their rules can be difficult to understand. Who has the right of way in a roundabout? When can you enter? How do you know where to exit?
These are only a few of the questions that might enter your mind as you drive up to one.
Thankfully, we’re here to put your mind at ease.
Today, we’re taking a close look at how roundabouts work, as well as the general rules for navigating one successfully.
Ready to learn more? Let’s get started!
What is a Roundabout?
To better understand how they work, let’s first discuss what roundabouts are.
In short, these are intersections wherein traffic moves counterclockwise around a central island. Roundabouts can be uncontrolled, or they can include road signs that help direct vehicles.
The most common signs are Yield signs that face entering traffic, as well as yield line pavement markings that help guide traffic around the circle.
While they can be a little complicated to master, the reality is that roundabouts are some of the safest types of intersections. They keep speeds low, move all traffic in the same direction, and eliminate dangerous left turns.
However, it can take a while to get the hang of them. Next, let’s review some of the most common points to know about understanding roundabouts!
Want to master roundabouts once and for all? Here are the roundabout road rules to remember.
Singe Lane Roundabout Rules
As you approach a roundabout you should always slow down.
Take note of any pedestrians about to cross the street or currently doing so. Then, let them pass before driving across the crosswalk. The number-one rule to know? Pedestrians always have the right of way at a roundabout.
Once the coast is clear, you can drive past the crosswalk. Make sure you have enough space to drive all the way through it before pulling up, however. Otherwise, you could receive a traffic citation for stopping on top of a pedestrian crossing!
Then, you’ll need to yield to any vehicles or cyclists that are already using the roundabout. This means you’ll have to find a gap in traffic where it’s safe to enter. As you do, remember: Even if you’re trying to go to the left, you have to stay to the right until you make your way around the circle. All roundabouts move in a counterclockwise direction.
As you approach your desired exit, use your turn signals to let others behind you know where you’re headed. If your flashing indicators aren’t working, you can use hand signals.
Once you reach the exit, yield to pedestrians if there are any crossing there. Then, pull off safely without stopping first. Never pass anyone on your way to your exit.
Miss your turn? Don’t try to turn around and go back. Simply go all the way around the circle again until you’re back where you started.
Multi Lane Roundabout Rules
Single-lane roundabouts are tricky enough, but multi-lane ones can be even more confusing. You might find yourself asking, “What lane should I be in in a roundabout?”
If you’re unsure how to drive in a two lane roundabout, the most important thing to remember is that you have to select your lane based on the location of your intended exit.
For instance, if you’re planning to turn right or exit directly across from where you enter, you should stay in the righthand lane. On the other hand, the lefthand lane is normally reserved for those who plan to go straight or exit to the left.
To make the selection process easier, most multi-lane roundabouts will feature illustrated signs that explain where each lane leads.
The basic rules for using a roundabout apply to both single-lane and multi-lane designs. You’ll still need to yield to pedestrians, slow down as you enter, and use your turn signals as you prepare to exit. If you’re in the lefthand lane, remember to pay attention to any vehicles on your right.
Who Has the Right of Way in a Roundabout?
It’s the ultimate question and the one that leaves the most people stumped: Who has the right of way at a roundabout? Here are the three simple rules to know.
1. Pedestrians crossing the street always have the right of way. All drivers and cyclists must yield to them before entering the intersection.
2. If you’re entering the roundabout, traffic already inside of it has the right of way. Yield to all vehicles and cyclists before entering.
3. If you’re entering the roundabout at the same time as an emergency vehicle that’s flashing red or blue lights and/or a siren, the emergency vehicle has the right of way, and you must yield to it.
Understanding Roundabouts Once and For All
Roundabouts don’t have to leave you scratching your head. As they continue to pop up all over the country, it will soon be difficult to avoid them. As such, it’s time to embrace them.
That’s why it’s smart to learn as much as possible about roundabouts now. Questions like, “Who has the right of way in a roundabout?” or “When can I enter a roundabout?” are simple to master if you have access to the right training.
That’s where we come in.
Looking to sharpen your skills behind the wheel? We offer a variety of driver improvement courses to help Virginia drivers. In some cases, taking a course can take points off your license and even help you save money on your auto insurance! Take our service quiz today to sign up!