While popular for several years in Europe, roundabouts are now gaining traction in North America. Also known as traffic circles or rotaries, roundabouts are occasionally placed at intersections instead of traffic lights or stop signs.
Roundabouts are essentially large circular intersections which allow traffic to flow nonstop. In North America, the traffic flows counterclockwise around the traffic circle. In the United Kingdom, traffic flows clockwise. Typically, there are three or more roads leading into and out of a traffic circle.While they are not practical at every intersection, traffic circles can be a functional yet inexpensive alternative to traffic lights. For instance, traffic lights require electricity and regular maintenance. Plus, traffic lights fail during power outages, resulting in confusion, accidents, and traffic jams. Additionally, the stop-and-go nature of navigating an intersection with traffic lights (or stop signs) means that drivers burn more fuel and create more greenhouse gases. Traffic circles, on the other hand, only require the upkeep of the road itself.
The increased popularity of traffic circles in North America has not been without opposition. There are many who are frightened by the very prospect of change. But with a little care and foreknowledge, traffic circles can be navigated safely while saving you time and money.
The most important thing to remember is that whoever is already in the traffic circle has the right of way. If you are approach a traffic circle and there is another vehicle approaching the point where you will enter the circle, you must yield to that vehicle. If and when the coast is clear, you can enter the traffic circle freely.
Once inside, you have the right of way. Theoretically, other vehicles will yield to you. However, as a precaution, you must remain aware of other drivers. Do not assume that everyone will follow the rules of the road. If another driver is unfamiliar with traffic circles, you may need to react quickly to their actions.
To exit the circle, identify the road you will use. As you approach that road, signal your intention to other drivers by using your turning signal. Then simply check over your shoulder to avoid other vehicles and turn onto that road. Mission accomplished.
While for some people driving on traffic circles can be stressful, you can drive with confidence. Before you know it, driving on a traffic circle will seem like second nature to you.