I grew up watching Clark Griswold take his family on vacation and inevitably suffer some kind of wacky car problem (safety note: do NOT drive like Clark Griswold).
The incident that stuck with me the most, perhaps because I could imagine it easily happening to me, was the episode in European Vacation when Clark could not escape the roundabout in London.
Luckily, when I drove my first roundabout, it was in North America and much smaller .. and I didn't have to contend with any double-decker buses.
But I'll admit, I do still tense up a little when entering a roundabout. And apparently I'm not alone, considering the amount of "how to drive a roundabout" material that has been produced by Canadian municipal and provincial governments.
Roundabouts large and small, from neighbourhood traffic calming circles to large intersection replacement projects, are being built all over Canada; and governments are doing their best to make sure drivers are ready for them.
Roundabouts have been shown to be safer and offer more benefits than traditional intersections for a variety of reasons:
- Overall lower vehicle speeds
- Better for vehicles as well as pedestrians
- Reduced "vehicular conflict points" (a fancy way of saying that since all cars are moving in the same direction in a round about, there aren't as many head-on crash opportunities)
- Increased capacity compared to a traditional multi-phase traffic signal
- Less idling (reduced air pollution)
- Aesthetically pleasing (I particularly enjoy all the community gardens that are at the centre of the smaller traffic circles in Vancouver)
But even with all these benefits, they can still be unnerving. Here are important things to keep in mind about driving in a roundabout:
- Reduce your speed on the approach
- If it is a multi-lane roundabout, check the signs and choose the correct lane for your desired exit
- Traffic already in the roundabout has the right of way; wait for an appropriate gap to enter
- When in the roundabout, proceed with traffic until your exit
- Use your right signal to indicate your exit
- Avoid passing and changing lanes in the roundabout
- Give large vehicles extra space in the roundabout
- Watch for pedestrians and cyclists upon entrance and exit
This video from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation has an excellent overview of how to drive in a multi-lane roundabout. It includes a demonstration of how to interact with emergency vehicles in a roundabout as well.
Are you seeing roundabouts being built in your town or city? Do you like using them?
- Rose R.