A roundabout is a confusing place, especially for learner drivers who are just getting to grips with the roads. There is a lot of traffic and mixed intentions from other drivers, there are also several rules to follow and best practices to keep in mind to safely negotiate one.
Luckily, there are some trustworthy conventions for road users to follow.
You first have to think of the roundabout as a process that you can learn and become so familiar with it will become second nature.
As you approach the roundabout you will quite naturally switch into roundabout-mode, select your lane and negotiate it safely while paying attention to other road users.
In this article, we look at the processes of entering and exiting a roundabouts safely and successfully, and how to signal appropriately.
Approaching a Roundabout
The safety of yourself and other road users is paramount on the roundabout. Negotiating one requires a high degree of concentration and skill. One of the first things you must do is decide which lane you need, this protocol is outlined in section 184 of the Highway Code.
You must also look out for traffic lights and road markings to help you manoeuvre appropriately. To negotiate the roundabout safely you need to use the mirror-signal-manoeuvre process; get into the correct lane, adjust the speed of your vehicle and be hyper-vigilant of other road users.
Reaching a Roundabout
Section 185 outlines what you should do when you reach the roundabout. Hypervigilance is vital, particularly at this point in the process, some road users may be in the wrong lanes, or signaling incorrectly. Use your awareness and drive patiently.
Traffic coming from the right always has priority and right of way unless otherwise instructed by markings or traffic lights. Look closely at the road markings to see who has right of way and if you’re in the correct lane. Check traffic has moved ahead of you before you proceed.
The First Exit
In section 186, the Highway Code outlines the process for safely exiting a roundabout. Since there are several exit options with different considerations, each should be considered separately. The first exit is perhaps the simplest and most common roundabout manoeuvre.
Unless the signs and markings state otherwise you need to indicate left and keep your vehicle in the left-hand lane, timing your indicator, so you are not too far away from the exit, or too close – try to signal on approach to the roundabout and exit. Stay in the left-hand lane while you are on the roundabout and after you exit.
When making left turns on the roundabout it’s useful to think of the circle as a clockface, so any intermediary exit that is not the first left turn, until the twelve oclock position, will need to be approached in the left-hand lane. That’s unless otherwise indicated by markings or signs. Look out for these markings or signs, but otherwise follow the general advice – try to signal after you pass the midway point of the exit prior to the one you are taking.
The Right Exit
The rules for exiting roundabouts in section 186 of the Highway Code are the best practices for roundabout manoeuvres. If you want to exit roundabouts safely, confidently, and without stress, then these rules are the most reliable ones to follow.
To take a right exit off a roundabout, you will generally need to be in the right-hand lane with a right signal on. Indicate left to leave the exit. The left signal should be timed to avoid confusion; it must not be too early to give the impression of leaving via an earlier exit, but similarly, it needs to be sufficiently early to give others time to react.
The Full Circle
New drivers often find roundabouts tricky and hazardous. In fact, even experienced drivers can trip up on them from time to time. You need to remain aware and hypervigilant and ensure you negotiate them with care.
The Full circle is very similar to the right exit manoeuvre. First, indicate right onto the roundabout and approach in the appropriate lane – normally the right-hand lane – then signal left to leave by the last exit on the roundabout.
Other Road Users
If you read section 187 of the Highway Code, you will encounter some valuable information on other road users and how your signalling might affect them on roundabouts. Many road users forget about signaling, but it’s particularly important when negotiating a roundabout.
Employ hypervigilance on approach and when on the roundabout. Always know your direction and choose your best lane early; look out for pedestrians crossing, vehicles intending to leave the roundabout, and traffic positioned incorrectly. Also be aware of cyclists, horses, and long vehicles. Ensure your signals are correct and look out for the signals of other road users.
Mini roundabouts are slightly different again. The same rules apply to mini-roundabouts, but in some cases, certain vehicles, such as ones that are too big may not adhere to the guidelines. This makes them extra hazardous. Approach them with caution and ensure you apply the mirror-signal-manoeuvre process as you would for other roundabouts.
If you encounter a double mini-roundabout, you approach each roundabout independently, signaling as appropriate. Choose your direction and give way to traffic from the right. These roundabouts can be problematic for some vehicles. To ensure safety, always signal at the correct times.