Struggling with Roundabouts? A Guide to Roundabout Driving
What’s not to like?
Roundabouts are the trickiest of junctions to learn and teach. Almost all students learning to drive find them at the beginning confusing, complicated and terribly frightening. Even experienced drivers sometimes make basic errors. However, like any thing that seems complicated, the key is to break the subject down into small bite-size chunks. During your lessons you will start on small local roundabouts that you may know and in time progress on to busier larger roundabouts that you never imagined you be driving around.
Why do we have roundabouts?
The roundabout was designed to replace busy crossroads that end up being a bottle neck for traffic. A more efficient and safer road system that do keep the traffic moving. Their success is evidenced by the fact that they are everywhere on our roads and that they come in all shapes and sizes. And it does not matter how big or small, roundabouts all have one thing in common. Priority is given to vehicles on the right moving towards you.
Learning new skills
As you drive you’re learning new skills. You started with learning to control the car. You’ve learnt how to deal with basic roads and junctions. You're now ready to move onto a roundabout, not literally hopefully.
Here you will be introduced two essential new skills that will help you entering and exiting roundabouts safely and confidently. The first skill requires you to learn how to judge the speed of vehicles already on the roundabout. The second skill that you will need to develop is how to correctly signal and position the car as you exit the roundabout. Using the mirrors, signal, position, speed and look (MSPSL) routine we can learn how these new skills fit into our overall routine.
A. The approach to the roundabout
Identify the roundabout. Look ahead for signs that you are approaching a roundabout. What type of roundabout are you approaching? Is it a mini roundabout or a large roundabout? You may see the roundabout before you see the sign. Early observation of the roundabout is very important because you need to plot your route through the roundabout. Busy roundabouts will have directional signs showing the shape, the position and number of exits. If you arrive at the roundabout and are unsure which exit you to take, you should just take the first exit as this is safer than moving around the roundabout try to work out what exit to take. Therefore good effective early observation of the roundabout allows for good planning to exit the roundabout.
Mirrors. Once you’ve identified the roundabout and your exit out, check the appropriate mirrors. If you intent going left at the roundabout, check centre and left mirrors. If going ahead, check centre mirrors only and if going right check centre and right mirrors.
Signal. Give the appropriate to signal to show other vehicles of where you want to go. Indicate left is you are going left. If you are going ahead, no signal is needed and if you are going right, signal right. If you need to move into a right lane you should signal your intention in good time. Always bear in mind the rule regarding signalling. Do not signal if your signal ends up confusing other vehicles. A good example of this is if the road ahead is slightly on the right of the roundabout. I’m happy to point this out during our lessons.
Position. You will need to position correctly before you arrive at the roundabout. Good position serves two purposes. Firstly you are putting the vehicle in the correct position to move off quickly into the roundabout and secondly your position tells other vehicles of your intended route through the roundabout. Therefore position left if you intent of going left or ahead at the roundabout. If you are intending to go right, position yourself slight to the right or move into the right lane if there are two or more lanes on the approach to the roundabout.
Speed. You should be reducing your speed by coming of the gas and using your brake lightly. You should aim to be approaching at a speed that allows you to stop safely behind the give way lines if you need to give way. Allow yourself time to start early observation of the roundabout but don’t slow down to the point that you impede vehicles behind who may decide to overtake you before the roundabout.
Look. As you reduce your speed, start scanning in all directions paying particularly attention to vehicles on the roundabout moving towards you. Don’t forget to look ahead at any vehicle ahead of you. You do not want to have an accident where you rear end the vehicle in front because your sole focus becomes the vehicles on the roundabout. As you look you will need to apply our first new skill mentioned above. We will need to decide if we can safely emerge onto the roundabout. This is similar to emerging at an open T junction where we used LADA (Look, Assess, Decide, Act) to judge if we had a big enough gap to join the main road. When emerging into the roundabout, you will be judging speed of vehicles on the roundabout and determining whether this gives you a bigger enough gap to enter the roundabout. So lets apply LADA to help us emerge safely into the roundabout.
Look ahead and towards the traffic moving on the roundabout. Continue scanning as you reduce your speed.
Assess the options. Can you go? Or do you stop? You need to judge the speed of the vehicles on the roundabout moving towards you. Those vehicles have priority over you. Because roundabouts are designed to allow the traffic to move through the junction efficiently you will need to use you judgement to enter the roundabout without ‘impacting’ on those vehicles who have priority? You will see other vehicles move almost effortlessly into the roundabout but judging speed requires practice and experience. You’re main objective at this point is to enter the roundabout safely. When judging speed be aware not all vehicles moving on the roundabout travel at the same speed. Some may be slowing to exit, some may accelerating as they enter the roundabout. Their speed is influenced by what they intending to do next. There are visual clues to help you. Are they signalling to exit? Their position on the roundabout? What direction are the front wheels pointing to? The more practice the more clues you will pick up. Finally you will need judge your momentum as you approach the roundabout. Do you have enough speed to enter in front of the vehicles moving towards you?
Act on your decision. If you decide to stop, then your focus should be in stopping behind the give way line. If you decide to enter the roundabout, now focus now on your route through the roundabout.
B. Exiting the roundabout
As mentioned earlier, it’s important you plan your route through the roundabout before you enter the roundabout. Once you’re on the roundabout you need to exit the roundabout safely. Exiting the roundabout relies on correct positioning and signalling and this is the second new skill we need to learn and practice. Some students find exiting particularly nerve wrecking but if you have positioned and signaled correctly then other vehicles know that you are intending to exit and will give you the space to exit.
First exit left. This is the same MSPSL routine as if you were turning left at a open T junction. Remember to stay left.
Going ahead exit. Position left or stay in the left lane. No signal was needed as you entered the roundabout. As soon as you identify your exit, check centre and left mirrors. Be aware of vehicle on the inside of the roundabout moving left. Signal left as soon as you pass the exit before your exit. Remember to look left again before you exit.
Turning right exit. You will need to position right on your approach and stay right on the inside of the roundabout. Keep your right signal on. You should be able to visualise your exit, but if it’s an unfamiliar roundabout you should be in the habit of counting exits as you move around the roundabout. When you identify your exit, check centre and left mirrors and signal left as soon as you pass the exit before your exit. Signal timing is very important in this situation. Signal too soon or too late and you may confuse other vehicles as to your intention. On signalling left check left again including your left blind-spot. Only move left if it is safe to do so. Keep checking left as you move left to exit. If you’ve signaled in good time, any vehicle behind you is expecting you to move left so be confident and move left to exit the roundabout.
C. Typical faults on roundabouts.
Below are some common errors made on roundabouts.
• Not identifying the roundabout in time.
• Not making effective use of mirrors before signalling and changing direction.
• Incorrect position on approach to a roundabout.
• Incorrect position for turning right.
• Approaching too fast or too slowly.
• Stopping before or beyond the give way lines.
• Emerging unsafely into the roundabout in front of vehicles with priority
• Undue hesitation.
• Not giving way to pedestrians on the approach to the roundabout.
D. Different type of roundabouts
Roundabouts come in all shapes and sizes. Larger roundabouts may be traffic light controlled or have three or more lanes such as spiral roundabouts. There are small roundabouts such as mini roundabouts which also come in different guises, such as double mini round and satellite roundabouts. They all share the same rules and require the same skills as a regular roundabout. We will tackle these different roundabouts as part of your driving lessons.
If you have any further questions on roundabouts or any other driving related enquiries, please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com.