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When driving in Europe and the UK you will encounter roundabouts.  These circular intersections are relatively rare in the U.S.  Read our article to familiarize yourself with how to handle roundabouts, when driving on the right or left.

 

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Travel Advice/Travel Tips -  How to handle roundabouts

One of the curiosities found while driving in Europe and, especially the United Kingdom, is the use of circular intersections known as roundabouts. The roundabout replaces the traditional four-way, signal controlled, intersection with a circular road that collects all exits and entrances converging on this location.

Entering and exiting roundabouts is an art. 

  • The  traffic rules concerning the vehicle having the right of way vary between countries.
    • Be sure and ask the rental car personnel about the right of way laws that apply where you will be driving.
    • Another source of this information is the embassy or official highway authority for your destination country.
  • In most countries, the vehicle in the roundabout has the right of way but in a few countries, the vehicle entering the roundabout has the right of way. Remember, it is your obligation to know and understand the driving rules and conventions in effect wherever you drive.

Roundabout use in countries following “driving on the right” rules

The roundabout usually consists of two lanes but may include three. There will be a traffic island (usually covered with turf) in the center of the roundabout. The roads entering or exiting the roundabout may or may not connect at right angles.

 

                 

 

Diagram 1.  Roundabout approach and exit while driving on the "right"

When driving on the "right" always look left before entering a roundabout!

The lane closest to the outside of the roundabout is used for entering and exiting.

  • If the first exit is your destination, you should enter the roundabout positioned in the outside lane (labeled "1" in Diagram 1) so that you can turn immediately.
  •  If the road that you are traveling has two lanes entering the roundabout and your exit is next exit, enter the roundabout from the right hand lane.
  • If the road that you are traveling has two lanes entering the roundabout and your destination is on the other side of the roundabout, use the left hand lane to enter the circle, move into the inside lane (labeled "2" in  Diagram  1) and return to the outside/exit lane as you approach your destination.
  • If the road you are exiting on has two lanes in the direction you are traveling, you may find cars exiting from both the inside (labeled "2' in Diagram 1)  and outside lane (labeled "1" in Diagram 1), so be prepared.

 If you are unsure where to exit, the simplest strategy is to continue driving around the roundabout until you have had time to read the signs and establish the correct exit to your destination.

  • It is a much better use of your time to stay on the roundabout until you are sure which exit is appropriate than to explore each road and have to turn back.
  •  If you are going to circle the roundabout do it from one of the innermost lanes (labeled 2 in the diagram) and not the outermost which is used for exiting, not for traversing the entire circle.
  • Also, if you cannot safely move into the exit lane in time for your turn, just continue around the roundabout  and move to the exit lane when it is safe to do so.

Roundabout use in countries following “driving on the left” rules

The roundabout usually consists of two lanes but may include three. There will be a traffic island (usually covered with turf) in the center of the roundabout. The roads entering or exiting the roundabout may or may not connect at a right angle.

                  

Diagram 2.  Roundabout approach and exit while driving on the "left"

When driving on the "left" always look right before entering a roundabout!

The lane closest to the outside of the roundabout is used for entering and exiting.

  • If the first exit from the roundabout is your destination, you should enter the roundabout positioned in the outside lane (labeled "1" in  Diagram 2) so that you can turn immediately.
  • If the road that you are traveling has two lanes entering the circle and your exit is next, enter the roundabout from the left-hand lane.
  • If  the road that you are traveling has two lanes entering the circle and your destination is on the other side of the roundabout, use the right hand lane to enter the circle, move into the inside lane (labeled "2" in Diagram 2) and return to the outside/exit lane as you approach your destination.
  • If the road you are exiting on has two lanes in the direction you are traveling, you may find cars exiting from both the inside (labeled "2" in Diagram 2) and outside lane (labeled "1"in Diagram 2), so be prepared.

 If you are unsure where to exit, the simplest strategy is to continue driving around the roundabout until you have had time to read the signs and establish the correct exit for your destination.

  • It is a much better use of your time to stay on the roundabout until you are sure which exit is appropriate than to explore each road and have to turn back.
  •  If you are going to circle the roundabout do it from one of the innermost lanes (labeled 2 in the diagram) and not the outermost which is used for exiting, not for traversing the entire circle.
  • Also, if you cannot safely move into the exit lane in time for your turn, just continue around the roundabout until it is safe to do so.

Our article provides general advice on how to negotiate roundabouts but it is your responsibility to seek specific information on  traffic rules, driving procedures,  and driving safety from the legal authorities in any country in which you will be driving.

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