How to Drive in a Roundabout

As roundabouts become more common on American roads, make sure to slow down, observe signs, and avoid pedestrians to safely navigate through them.

Jacquelyn Childs
How to Drive in a Roundabout

For drivers accustomed to the traditional four-way intersection with stop signs or traffic lights, a roundabout can look confusing and somewhat daunting. These roundabouts are gaining popularity, however, due to safety, especially in areas with heavy foot or bike traffic.

Although at first glance, it might seem like a roundabout is more dangerous than a regular intersection that requires people to physically stop and look. Many studies, including those conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety IIHS, show a dramatic drop in collisions, specifically those with injuries and fatalities. Even better, drivers have saved a ton of time using roundabouts.

In intersections turned into roundabouts, they’ve seen:

  • 72-80% reduction in injury crashes
  • 35-47% reduction in all crashes
  • Up to 89% average reduction in vehicle delays
  • Up to 52% average reduction in vehicle stops

With obvious benefits to roundabouts, it’s wise to familiarize yourself with the process of safely navigating through them. This article provides 4 recommendations on how to safely handle a roundabout, should you encounter one.

Part 1 of 4: How to follow posted signs and speed limits

As you approach a roundabout, you will see signs letting you know it’s coming and what to expect. Many roundabouts, especially multi-lane roundabouts, have depictions of the roundabout itself so you can see what lane to drive in to get off at your desired exit. It might also show a bike or pedestrian lane if the roundabout has one.

If you’re approaching a multi-lane roundabout, it’s important to be in your required lane prior to entering the actual circle since you shouldn’t be merging while in the roundabout. Pay attention to the position of each lane prior to entering. For example, if you need to take the first exit of the roundabout, it’s safest to already be in the right lane. If you need to take the second or third exit, you might want to stay in the left lane.

There might be a posted speed limit sign before you enter the roundabout, which is usually between 15-30 mph. Even if there is no sign, slow down before entering and while driving through a roundabout. There’s no need to rush through since you’re already saving time without a stop light. It’s also important to be mindful of possible pedestrians walking by or other cars that may be entering the roundabout with you.

Part 2 of 4: How to slow down to look for oncoming traffic

Since all traffic drives one way through the circle, yielding to other cars and bikes is fairly simple. Slow down as you approach the circle and look to the left for oncoming traffic.

Although traffic is only coming from the left, there are usually bike or pedestrian lanes so it is wise to take an extra moment to look all around in order to avoid coming into contact with someone trying to cross the road in the wrong direction.

Part 3 of 4: How to merge into the roundabout

Once there is an opening in traffic, safely merge into the flow and follow the circle along as far as you need to. Here are some things to keep into consideration while actually driving in the roundabout:

  • Never stop in the roundabout
  • Stay in your lane
  • Don’t drive next to large trucks or buses (they generally need more space than one lane to turn)

Part 4 of 4: How to exit the roundabout

As you approach your exit, flip your turn signal on and look around once more for bikes and pedestrians. The only time you should ever yield while driving through and exiting a roundabout is to pedestrians or emergency vehicles.

Once the coast is clear, take your exit and continue on to your destination.

Now that you know how to properly navigate through the dreaded roundabout, you can see it’s not as daunting as it appears to be. It will in fact save you time and is considerably safer than any other type of intersection.

Read next