You’ve probably seen a roundabout or two during your travels, and driven on one. If you’re like most drivers, you want to know what a roundabout is and what’s its purpose. We’ve got you covered! Let’s talk about roundabouts.
A rotary or traffic circle also referred to as a roundabout, is a type of circular intersection or junction that permits road traffic to flow in a single direction around a central island. In a roundabout, priority is given to traffic that is already driving through the junction.
Did you know there are rules to driving on roundabouts? When you’re driving on a roundabout, these are the rules you need to follow:
- Slow down and obey all traffic signs
- Yield to pedestrians and bicyclists
- Yield to traffic on your left who are already in the roundabout
- When you’re approaching a roundabout, you are required to merge into the correct lane, indicate if you are turning by using your signal, and give way to the traffic that is already on the roundabout
- Enter the roundabout when there is a safe gap within the traffic
- Pedestrians crossing the street have the right-of-way, and all drivers and cyclists must yield
- Traffic already at the roundabout has the right-of-way. You must yield before entering the intersection
- Emergency vehicles entering the roundabout have the right-of-way. You must yield to emergency vehicles that display red or blue flashing lights, and a siren when you’re entering the roundabout, even if you are currently on it.
There is more than one type of roundabout, including the following:
- Mini roundabouts
- Double or triple mini-roundabouts
- Standard roundabouts
- Traffic light-controlled roundabouts
- Multiple lane roundabouts
A mini-roundabout is a small roundabout in residential areas or t-junctions, with a white circle in the center. These roundabouts have different objectives, including the following:
- Improve access for pedestrians and bicyclists
- Encourage more school-aged children to walk to school
- Reduce the number of speeding drivers and those who run stop signs
- Reduce the noise caused by cars braking hard or accelerating at intersections
- Preserve the values of properties in the area
- Increase intersection capacity
- Enhance intersection safety
Double and triple mini-roundabouts are used instead of traffic light-controlled crossroads junctions. These roundabouts are composed of two or three consecutive mini-roundabouts. These circular junctions are designed to slow traffic while improving safety and are often marked with a white circle in the center and a blue circular sign on the outside.
When you’re approaching a double or triple mini-roundabout, you must follow the same rules as a single mini-roundabout. You must give way to traffic traveling from the right unless otherwise directed by signs, traffic lights, or road markings. It’s also important to signal correctly and be aware of any vehicles in front of you and any vehicles coming from the right to avoid a pile-up.
Standard roundabouts are single-lane roundabouts that have a raised island in the center, and they often have give-way markings or signs. These roundabouts are different from modern roundabouts.
With standard roundabouts, there is a tangential entry. These roundabouts work on gap acceptance principles and standard roundabouts operate at higher speeds than modern roundabouts. When it comes to changing lanes, motorists must move from one lane to the other.
Traffic light-controlled roundabouts have multiple lanes with traffic lights to help regulate the entry and exit of vehicles. You will often see these roundabouts in ring roads, busy junctions, city centers, and slip roads. Traffic light-controlled roundabouts are generally safer than traditional roundabouts with stop signs or no deflection. However, you should always remain cautious when driving on these roundabouts and check to the right when you have a green light.
Multiple-lane roundabouts have 2 or more lanes at each entry and exit point, which requires lane discipline and signaling. When you’re choosing your lane, you will do so the same way you would in a traditional intersection. To go straight or right, use the right lane. If you’re traveling straight, or left, or you need to make a U-turn, use the left lane.
If you’re like some drivers, seeing a roundabout ahead may send you into slight panic mode. Roundabouts aren’t as intimidating as they seem. Here are some basics you need to know about driving on roundabouts.
Roundabouts are designed with safety and efficiency in mind for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. When you’re driving on a roundabout, remember the following:
- Stay in your lane
- Yield to drivers who are already in the roundabout
- Do NOT stop in the roundabout
- Avoid driving next to oversized vehicles
Most modern roundabouts are designed to be safer than traditional intersections, especially for people walking or using mobility assistance devices. In modern roundabouts, vehicles move at a slower rate of speed than other roundabouts, usually 15 to 20 mph.
You may notice that crosswalks are further back from vehicle traffic, allowing drivers more time to react to people in the roadway before they merge into or exit the roundabout. Islands in the shape of triangles are placed between traffic lanes to provide pedestrians moving through the roundabout a safe place to wait if they choose to cross in a single direction of traffic at a time.
People who are using the crosswalk should be on the lookout for approaching vehicle traffic. If there is no traffic, pedestrians can then move through the crosswalk to the triangular island. Also, if you are using the crosswalk, be aware of your surroundings and check for traffic entering or exiting the roundabout. When it is safe, continue through the crosswalk.
As a bicyclist on a roundabout, you can ride through traffic or walk with your bike through the pedestrian crosswalks like a traditional intersection. A bicycle is considered a vehicle in this instance, and you must obey all rules of the roundabout as you proceed through the intersection.
If you choose to walk your bike through the crosswalk, some roundabouts have a ramp that leads to a sidewalk, making it easy for you to transition from the roadway to the sidewalk.
To drive through a roundabout, you need to know whether you’re driving through a single-lane or multi-lane roundabout.
In single-lane roundabouts, when you’re approaching a roundabout, you should see a yellow “roundabout ahead” traffic sign with an advisory speed limit for said roundabout. As you approach the roundabout slow down and watch for pedestrians in the crosswalk.
As you’re nearing the roundabout, look to your left, and yield to traffic that is currently circulating through the roundabout. If there is no traffic, enter the roundabout without yielding. If there is traffic, wait until there is a gap in traffic, enter the circle, and make your way to your exit. As you navigate the roundabout, remain in your lane, and look for pedestrians before you exit.
If you’re driving in a multi-lane roundabout, you’ll notice two signs as you approach the intersection, which will be the same yellow “roundabout ahead” warning sign and speed sign that is used in single-lane roundabouts. You will also notice a black and white lane choice sign, which is the second sign you will see. This sign will help you choose the proper lane for the direction you want to exit the roundabout.
You’ll choose your lane in a multi-lane roundabout the same way you would in a traditional intersection. In general, to go straight or turn right, you’ll need to stay in the right lane. To go straight or turn left, you’ll need to remain in the left lane. Also, if you need to make a U-turn, you’ll do so from the left lane.
Once you select the proper lane, keep an eye out for pedestrians in the crosswalk as you’re approaching the roundabout. You will notice a dashed yield line. When you reach this line, look to your left and yield to the drivers who are already traveling in the roundabout.
Remember that when you’re traveling in a multi-lane roundabout, traffic that is entering the roundabout is required to yield to both lanes of the circulating traffic. If there is no traffic in the roundabout, you can enter the roundabout without yielding. If there is traffic, don’t enter the roundabout until you see a gap in traffic that allows you to merge into the roundabout in the proper lane and proceed to your exit. Also, look for pedestrians before exiting the roundabout.
Roundabouts are designed to accommodate vehicles of all sizes, including buses, farm equipment, emergency vehicles, and semi-trucks that are equipped with trailers. In multi-lane roundabouts, it’s not uncommon for large vehicles to take up one traffic lane and part of another. The rear of larger truck trailers will likely veer into another lane while completing a turn, so you should never drive next to larger vehicles or vehicle trailers in a roundabout.
Have you seen a roundabout and wondered what they’re for or what are the benefits of having one? We have the answer! Roundabouts have a variety of benefits over intersections and other traffic control types.
Safety while traveling on the road is essential, and roundabouts were designed to enhance driver safety. Different studies reveal that roundabouts are safer than traditional traffic signal-controlled and stop sign intersections.
Did you know that according to a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), roundabouts reduce injury crashes by as much as 75%? Many stop signs and traffic signals were used at the locations but were replaced by roundabouts. Further studies by this institute revealed that roundabouts can achieve the following:
- More than a 35% reduction in overall collisions
- More than a 70% reduction in injury collisions
- More than an 85% reduction in fatality collisions
- More than a 38% reduction in pedestrian collisions
There are a few reasons roundabouts help reduce the risk of severe collisions, such as low travel speeds, no one races to “beat the light”, and one-way travel. When it comes to low travel speeds, drivers must slow down and yield to traffic before they can enter the roundabout.
Almost all drivers are familiar with “beating the light”. When drivers try to beat the light, the light is most likely yellow, and they don’t want to sit and wait for the light to turn green after allowing other traffic the chance to have their green light and continue to their destination. Roundabouts promote a continuous flow of traffic, which means traffic is always moving and not at a standstill.
Roundabouts also promote one-way traffic. Roads that will enter a roundabout gently curve to direct drivers into the intersection, and aid them in traveling counterclockwise around the roundabout. These curved roads eliminate the risk of T-bone and head-on collisions.
Roundabouts can quickly move traffic through an intersection with less congestion on approaching roads. Traditional intersections that have traffic signals force drivers to wait until their light is green at a roundabout to travel through the intersection. In roundabouts, traffic is only required to yield and not stop completely, allowing the intersection to handle more traffic in the same amount of time.
The cost difference between building a roundabout and a traffic signal is significant. When you’re considering long-term costs, roundabouts eliminate constant maintenance, hardware, and electrical costs, which can cost an average of $5,000 to $10,000 per year.
Although a roundabout may require more space within an intersection, they take up less space on streets that are approaching the roundabout. Since roundabouts can handle a higher volume of traffic more efficiently than traffic signals, drivers don’t have to line up and wait for a green light.
Congratulations. Now you know a little about roundabouts and how to correctly drive around one. Always be alert and aware of your surroundings. Happy driving!