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  • Everyday Driver

You're Doing It Wrong - Vol.1 - Roundabouts

In this on-going series we will explore the apparently common misconceptions of the road that hinder good driving for all of us. The first topic is the Round-a-bout.

The Roundabout is a pretty common intersection in places outside the US. The Arc de Triomphe sits in the center of a huge and famous roundabout, and London seems to use them more than anything else. But for years if you went to most US cities you’d find every traffic pattern combination ever devised except the simple roundabout. In the past decade or so this has begun to change, and it’s clear that most American drivers have no idea what to do when they approach a roundabout.

I recently heard of a woman complaining loudly to a group how most people in her town never stopped to let others into a roundabout. Apparently no one in the room had the heart to tell this woman that she was the problem in her story. So now she’s out there somewhere stopping in the roundabout to let others in and bound to get hit.

In case you don’t know, the people in the roundabout have the right of way. When approaching, you must yield to those in the circle, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop.

Except of course for those places in the US where they’ve put Stop Signs at the four roads that reach the roundabout. Yup. Stop signs combined with a roundabout. But this isn’t on all of them, even in the same city. I have to think this only furthers a driver’s inability to know what to do.

I love roundabouts, as they are the only place in modern driving that feels like something from the track. You approach at speed with traffic and angles and a flurry of information. If you time things right and drive with confidence you can dart into the circle and swing around to your exit with a sense of satisfaction. You can even refine it over time. Unless of course there’s stop-signs. Or a woman stopping in the middle trying to let people in.

The Awarning is this: Let’s endeavor to learn the roundabout. Let’s recognize them for the fun cornering challenge they are and approach them without fear or a need to come to a complete stop. There’s a certain amount of pride in cutting a hole through the typical slew of traffic and finding your perfect line through a round-about. And if you see someone waiting for you to let them in, just wave.

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