Advanced skills

All about roundabouts

7 min read • Oct 26, 2018
roundabouts-lh

Whether you struggle with lane positioning, knowing when to give way or how to give the correct signals, this guide will teach you everything you need to know about roundabouts.

Roundabouts come in all sizes

Whilst you’re learning to drive, you’ll come across different kinds of roundabouts. Whilst some will have numerous lanes of traffic, there’ll also be single lane roundabouts and mini roundabouts. The same basic rules apply for each, but you’ll find you have to deal with each differently.

Give way to the right

In the UK, you should always give way to your right at a roundabout. Check to your right as you approach the entrance of the roundabout, whilst reducing your speed. Look out for signals from other drivers but only pull out if you’re sure they’re exiting the roundabout, as they may have forgotten to cancel their signal.

Approaching a roundabout

When you approach a roundabout, there will be a road sign showing you what the roundabout looks like, how many exits there are and which exit leads to which location. Make sure you know which exit you need to take and that you’re well prepared and in the correct lane before you reach the roundabout.

Lane positioning

Knowing which lane you need to be in when approaching a roundabout is crucial. As a basic rule of thumb, you should be in the left hand lane if you’re going less than half way or half way around the roundabout, and you should be in the right hand lane if you’re going more than half way around the roundabout.

Top tip: Imagine the roundabout is a clock, and that you always enter it at 6 o’clock. If your exit is before or at 12 o’clock, choose the left-hand lane. If the exit is after 12 o’clock, choose the right hand lane.

This gets a little trickier when a roundabout has more than two lanes. If there are numerous options, there will generally be road markings on the road to signal which lane you need to be in. Use these, along with other road signs and markings, to help you choose the correct lane.

Signalling

As you approach a roundabout, you should make sure you give yourself enough time to move to the appropriate lane, and to apply the correct signal. It’s crucial that you let other road users know what you intend to do at a roundabout in order to avoid causing an accident.

Turning left

When taking the immediate left at a roundabout, check your mirrors, signal left and position yourself in the left hand lane. You should keep your indicator on until you have taken the exit and have left the roundabout.

Straight over

If your exit is straight across the roundabout (at 12 o’clock), you should check your mirrors and position yourself in the left hand lane. When going straight across you should only apply your left indicator when you have passed all of the exits before the one you intend to take.

Going right around the roundabout

If you’re taking an exit after 12 o’clock, you should check your mirrors, signal with your right indicator and position yourself in the correct lane. Keep your indicator on as you drive around the roundabout, until you pass the exit before the one you plan to take. Once you’ve passed the exit before the one you’re taking, check your mirrors, apply your left indicator and move across to the correct lane for the exit.

What if I realise I’m in the wrong lane?

If you realise, once you’ve entered the roundabout, that you’re in the wrong lane, don’t panic. Check your mirrors and see if it’s safe to move into the correct lane, making sure you signal if it is. If it’s not safe to do so, continue around the roundabout in the lane that you’re in. Do not try to cut across other traffic to take the correct exit, as this will put you and others at risk.

Instead, drive around the roundabout and give yourself enough time to correct your lane positioning. Make sure you check your mirrors whenever you change speed or direction on a roundabout.

Mini roundabouts

Dealing with mini roundabouts is a little different. You still give way to the right and you’ll still need to signal to show other drivers what your intentions are, but there will generally only be one or two lanes to contend with.

Mini roundabouts are usually white, slightly raised circles painted on the ground. Despite this, it’s important that you treat it like any other roundabout, and that you drive around the circle and not over the top of it. Although it might seem like the easier and quicker option, driving over a mini-roundabout is dangerous and could land you in hot water if the police spot you.

You also need to signal on a mini-roundabout, but you’ll have less time to do so. Signal left as you exit the roundabout but make sure you don’t signal too early as this might mislead other drivers. You should also be aware of drivers making a U-turn at a mini roundabout.

Multiple mini-roundabouts

Multiple mini-roundabouts aren’t particularly common, but it’s important to know how to deal with them if you do ever come across one. Multiple mini-roundabouts can look daunting, but it’s important to remember the basic rules of how to deal with them.

Treat each mini-roundabout as an individual roundabout, where the same rules apply.

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When is it safe to go?

Knowing when it’s safe and not safe to enter a roundabout is a skill which comes with practise. As you approach the roundabout, look to your right. Are there any cars coming around the roundabout and where are they signalling? If a car is signalling to go right around the roundabout, stop and give way to them. If a car is signalling left to leave the roundabout, it should be OK to go.

You should never, however, assume that a car is going to leave the roundabout. Ensure you are 100% certain that the car is turning off the roundabout before you commit to joining it.

Images via Paul Townsend and Hellerick.

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