Roundabouts, or traffic circles, have been a part of the transportation system for a long time. One of the first circles in the United States was the Columbus Circle in New York City, built in 1905. As traffic volumes increase, traffic circles fell out of favour because of the high crash volumes and gridlocked traffic mainly due to the fact that priority was given to vehicles entering the circle.

Changes to improve the safety characteristics of the circular intersections and reduce the number of crashes have made roundabouts a common intersection form. Roundabouts seem to be popping up all over the place. Now the problem seems to be that not everyone knows how to use them.

A roundabout is a form of circular intersection in which traffic travels counter-clockwise around a central island and in which entering traffic must yield to circulating traffic. Here are the general traffic rules for Roundabouts. Get familiar with them and before long you’ll be a pro.

Approaching a Roundabout

  • As you approach the roundabout make sure you check the signage to choose your exit. As with any other intersection, you need to know which lane you should use.
  • Use the left land to turn left or go straight.
  • Use the right lane to turn right or go straight.

Entering the Roundabout

  • Before entering the roundabout do visual checks of all the vehicles already in the roundabout and others waiting to enter.
  • Traffic in the roundabout has the right of way. When preparing to enter the roundabout pay attention to the vehicles on your left remember that traffic is flowing counter clockwise.
  • As with any other type of merging, watch for a safe opportunity to enter the roundabout; entering when there is an adequate gap in the circulating traffic flow.
  • Once in the roundabout, always keep to the right of the central island and travel in a counter-clockwise direction.
  • Do not stop except to avoid a collision. Remember you have the right of way over entering traffic. If you miss your exit, you must continue around until you meet your exit again.
  • You must retain your lane when in the roundabout. If you entered from the left lane, stay to the left. If you entered from the right lane, stay to the right.

Exiting the Roundabout

  • Make sure that you use your turn signals to let other drivers know you are exiting the roundabout. Signal your intent to exit one exit before the one you need,
  • If exiting from the left lane, watch out for vehicles on the right that continue to circulate around the roundabout.