Understanding Traffic Rules for Roundabouts

Author: Joey Rosenberg

Categorized in: How-To, Safety

Traffic Rules for Roundabouts
Photo by Grand Canyon National Park via Flickr

Roundabouts are designed to make intersections safe and efficient. But for many drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, they remain a mystery. There are two types of roundabouts, single lane and double lane, and here are the basics of safely navigating them both.

Single Lane Roundabouts

You'll know a single lane roundabout is coming up when you see a yellow sign with circular arrows and a speed limit. Most roundabouts have a speed limit of 15 to 20 mph.

Slow Down and Look

Reduce your speed and look to your left before entering the roundabout. Remember that traffic already traveling in the roundabout has the right of way. Although you should slow down, you shouldn't come to a complete stop. If there isn't any traffic in the roundabout, you can even enter without fully yielding. But be on the lookout for pedestrians who may be in or approaching the crosswalk, because pedestrian always have the right of way.

Maintain a Low, Steady Speed

Keep a low, steady speed as you continue to drive through the roundabout. As you approach your desired exit, flip on your turn signal to let other drivers know your intention. You don't need to slow down further or come to a stop to exit the roundabout. The only exceptions are when pedestrians are in the crosswalk or if an emergency vehicle is approaching. If an emergency vehicle is getting ready to enter the roundabout, exit at your destination and pull over immediately. But ever stop or pull over in the roundabout!

Multi-Lane Roundabouts

The signage for an upcoming multi-lane roundabout looks like a yellow "Roundabout Ahead" sign and a black and white lane choice sign. Drivers need to decide which lane to use before approaching a roundabout.

Yield to Both Lanes of Traffic

Unlike single lane roundabouts, drivers need to yield to two lanes of traffic in a multi-lane roundabout. If you plan to turn right, stay in the farthest right lane and wait for approaching cars to pass before entering the roundabout.

Choose Your Lane

Multi-lane roundabouts often have at least three possible exits. If you are going to want to turn left or make a U-turn, stay in the left lane. If you're planning to make a right turn, stay in the right lane. You can continue to go straight from either lane.

Stay in Your Lane

Even though these types of roundabouts have multiple lanes, you are still not allowed to pass other drivers who may be moving slower or are unfamiliar with roundabout rules. Additionally, use extreme caution when driving next to semi-trucks and other oversized vehicles as they have a large turning radius. Stay a bit behind large vehicles traveling in the lane next to you to avoid getting side-swiped.

Final Roundabout Tips to Remember

  • Take it slow
  • Don't stop
  • Stay in your lane
  • Choose the correct lane
  • Yield to the left
  • Don't pass
  • Don't drive next to oversize vehicles