Driving can be a daunting experience, especially if you’re a new driver. There are a handful of common fears that new drivers have, like fear of motorways or stalling at a traffic light.
Roundabouts are another common area for confusion and worry for drivers. There are different types of roundabouts, some a bit “scarier” than others. You might need to drive around a large roundabout with several lanes and even traffic lights and signs. Or you could go around a very small one that feels more like a junction than a roundabout.
In the UK we also have “magic roundabouts” – which are really a lot less about magic and a lot more about stress. Found in towns like Swindon and Hemel Hempstead, these magic roundabouts are several roundabouts built within one big roundabout – a very different challenge for a driver…
With so many actions happening at the same time, requiring a lot of attention, it can be stressful to figure out what you should be doing in a roundabout – and how to do it safely.
We put together some tips for driving in a roundabout safely so that hopefully, next time you face one, it won’t be so scary!
It often takes time to learn to understand roundabouts. That’s why preparation is key.
When approaching a roundabout, you should get into position early, using your mirrors, signalling other drivers on time, whilst looking out for road signs before you actually reach the roundabout. Paying attention to the signs is vital to get the information you need about where to go.
You should always know where you’re going, but these signs will tell you which exit you need to take and possibly also which lane to get in if it’s a big roundabout.
You should approach a roundabout in a similar way to a normal junction. The earlier you know that a roundabout is approaching, whether it’s through signs or noticing traffic crossing in front of you, the more time you’ll have to prepare and act safely. So stay alert!
Joining and driving in a roundabout
When waiting to join the roundabout, you should give right of way to the traffic already going around it, from your right. Of course, if the roundabout is managed by traffic lights, these take precedence.
When you’re at the junction of the roundabout, there are many bits and pieces to take on board to make the right move. You need to work out what cars are going where, how fast they are going, and when is the best time to leave the junction and join the roundabout.
If you’re unsure about which lane to take, an easy tip to remember is to look at a roundabout as if it’s a clock. If you’re going straight ahead at “twelve o’clock” or turning before that junction, you should get into the left-hand lane. If you’re turning past the “twelve o’clock” junction (going right or full circle), you should get into the right-hand lane.
It’s important to give enough space to others when in the roundabout, to allow everyone the time to make calculated manoeuvres.
What to avoid
What you want to avoid at roundabouts is hesitating too much. In a driving test, if you miss a very clear-cut, safe opportunity to join a roundabout, it could be marked as a serious fault.
But safety comes first – if you’re not 100% sure about where you’re heading, don’t join the roundabout. It’s better to wait a little at the junction than to rush in, endangering yourself and the drivers already in the roundabout.
Don’t stay too focused on where you need to go and forget watching out for the other drivers’ moves. The mirrors are your best friend in a roundabout. Make sure you use your indicators so that everyone in the roundabout knows about your intentions.
The easiest thing you can do to make sure a roundabout doesn’t catch you off guard is reducing your speed. Drive at a speed that’s appropriate for the road and weather conditions, allowing yourself time to see what’s coming ahead and prepare.