Proper Use of a Roundabout

Like manual transmissions, roundabouts are much more common in Europe than North America. If you drive in Canada, however, you’re still bound to come across a roundabout at some point, so it’s important you know how to properly use one.

We’ve broken down the steps to using a roundabout to help you and everyone else on the road get through them safely.

What Is a Roundabout?

If you haven’t seen one before, a roundabout can be a bit confusing to look at. A roundabout is a circular intersection or junction where traffic flows in one direction. Most roundabouts have two to four entrances/exits and one to two lanes. These specifications can vary, but the rules for using roundabouts are fairly universal.

We’ll focus on the rules to using a roundabout in Ontario. If you travel elsewhere, check for any other guidelines on how to properly use a roundabout.

How to Enter a Roundabout

For those new to roundabouts, entering them can be intimidating. Luckily, the rules are quite simple.

As you approach a roundabout, pay attention to the road signs that show where each exit leads to. Make sure you’re in the correct lane for where you want to go. If you’re turning left, enter from the left lane. If turning right, enter from the right lane. If you’re continuing straight ahead, you can join either lane.

Notice how many cars are already driving in the roundabout. Every roundabout entrance will have a yield sign next to it. Before you enter the roundabout, you must yield to all traffic to your left, similar to how you would merge onto the highway. Wait until there’s a clear break in traffic for you to join. Consider the size of your vehicle, the weather, and traffic flow to judge what’s a safe driving distance and when to enter a roundabout.

If there’s a pedestrian crosswalk in front of your entrance, stay behind until it’s safe for you to join the roundabout. Pedestrians and cyclists maintain right-of-way, so you must yield to them.

If you can tell there’s no oncoming traffic, cyclists, or pedestrians at the crosswalk, you can enter the roundabout without stopping at the yield sign. Even if you don’t come to a complete stop, though, you should still lower your speed as you approach a roundabout.

Arc de Triomphe from the sky, Paris
Arc de Triomphe, Paris

Driving in a Roundabout

The key thing to remember about using a roundabout is the direction of travel will never change. Every car that enters must move counter-clockwise, keeping to the right of the central island.

Once you’re in the roundabout, maintain a consistent speed. The only time you should slow down is to avoid a collision.

Don’t change lanes when you’re inside a roundabout. Instead, enter the correct lane for where you want to exit. Do not overtake other vehicles in a roundabout. Doing so is reckless and could lead to an accident.

Exiting a Roundabout

When you see your exit coming up, use your right turn signal to let other drivers know you’re about to leave the roundabout.

If you entered from the left lane to turn left, drive through the roundabout with your left turn signal on. Just before your exit, use your right turn signal to let others know you’re leaving. If you’re in the right lane, indicate to the right when you come across your exit. If you’re continuing straight, indicate to the right prior to your exit.

If you miss your exit, you can go through the roundabout again. Although there’s no law to how many times you can travel through a roundabout, avoid doing so more than twice.

Other Roundabout Tips

Keep these tips in mind when using a roundabout:

  • If you’re driving a large vehicle, you may use two lanes of a roundabout.
  • Pull as far as you can to the right (if the roadway is wide enough) to allow emergency vehicles to pass. Otherwise, do not stop for an emergency vehicle if you’re inside a roundabout. Instead, exit as you normally would and pull over to the right until the vehicle has passed you.

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