Emerging left or right, joining a roundabout, changing or merging lanes are all examples of “joining traffic” i.e. you must fit into the flow of cars that are already moving. This requires good judgement but there are specific actions you can take to improve these skills. For roundabouts especially, taking your time and getting plenty of practice is essential.
It is necessary to get the preparation correct when ‘joining traffic’ and thus the MSPSGLADA routine is really helpful. In almost all incidences of ‘joining traffic’ it is helpful to have some momentum as this makes the picking up speed and matching the flow of traffic much easier, however it is also necessary to be going slowly enough to have the time to look and assess and make a good decision. Where it is necessary to stop I would recommend leaving yourself space to get the car moving before joining the flow of traffic. I’ll take you through the process for doing that for roundabouts.
The additional difficulty with roundabouts is that they vary in shape and size considerably. At the basic level though they are all circular one way roads which you join and then leave. It is normal that the vehicles on the roundabout (one way road) have priority but this is not always the case so watch out for those rare exceptions. The differences in shape, size and complexity mean that roundabouts can be very tricky to master. I am confident that the information and videos on this page will help you understand the different types of roundabouts and the best way to approach them.
As some roundabouts are traffic light controlled, others have roads going through the middle (some times called hamburger roundabouts) and some have left only lanes it is necessary to identify an upcoming roundabout early so that you can collect information from the road markings and signs enabling you to navigate them safely.
For all types of roundabout it is crucial that you use your mirrors to find out what is around you. On the simpler roundabouts it is sufficient to check the centre mirror and the side mirror in the direction you are travelling. On larger more complicated roundabouts you may wish to check all mirrors.
On approaching a roundabout take notice and act on all the information available to you, including traffic signs, traffic lights and lane markings which direct you into the correct lane. You should
- use Mirrors – Signal – Manoeuvre at all stages
- decide as early as possible which exit you need to take
- give an appropriate signal (see Rule 186, below). Time your signals so as not to confuse other road users
- get into the correct lane
- adjust your speed and position to fit in with traffic conditions
- be aware of the speed and position of all the road users around you.
On all roundabouts it is important to let other road users know of your intentions so indicate in good time. Indicate left when you are taking the first exit, indicate right for any exit on the right side of the roundabout and don’t signal on approach for any exits in between these.
Signals and position. When taking the first exit to the left, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise
- signal left and approach in the left-hand lane
- keep to the left on the roundabout and continue signalling left to leave.
When taking an exit to the right or going full circle, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise
- signal right and approach in the right-hand lane
- keep to the right on the roundabout until you need to change lanes to exit the roundabout
- signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you want.
When taking any intermediate exit, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise
- select the appropriate lane on approach to the roundabout
- you should not normally need to signal on approach
- stay in this lane until you need to alter course to exit the roundabout
- signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you want.
When there are more than three lanes at the entrance to a roundabout, use the most appropriate lane on approach and through it.
You must decide an appropriate position based on the type and size of roundabout. If there is only one lane then your decision is fairly simple, if there are multiple lanes you must use signs and road markings to direct you. You will almost certainly be in the left lane if you wish to turn left. However, for other exits it will very much depend on the roundabout. The following advice will give you a basis to work from: When going straight ahead (2nd exit) then position on the left as you approach and then check for road markings or signs directing you otherwise. It is perfectly possible that on larger roundabouts you will need to use the middle or second lane. When going right at a roundabout position to the right as you approach and look for road markings and signs for further direction. It is possible that the right lane will split into two lanes and you could therefore end up in the middle lane. Use the video on position to explore the various options.
On mini-roundabouts ensure you go round the centre when possible (larger vehicles may struggle to do so). Watch out for those road users who may take an alternative position – cyclists, horse-riders, long and/or wide vehicles.
In all cases watch out for and give plenty of room to
- pedestrians who may be crossing the approach and exit roads
- traffic crossing in front of you on the roundabout, especially vehicles intending to leave by the next exit
- traffic which may be straddling lanes or positioned incorrectly
- cyclists and horse riders who may stay in the left-hand lane and signal right if they intend to continue round the roundabout. Allow them to do so
- long vehicles (including those towing trailers). These might have to take a different course or straddle lanes either approaching or on the roundabout because of their length. Watch out for their signals.
Mini-roundabouts. Approach these in the same way as normal roundabouts. All vehicles MUST pass round the central markings except large vehicles which are physically incapable of doing so. Remember, there is less space to manoeuvre and less time to signal. Avoid making U-turns at mini-roundabouts. Beware of others doing this.
Make sure your speed and gear allow you to fit in with the flow of traffic, always bearing in mind it is easier to speed up rather than slow down (it is easier enough to stop quickly but to slow down, change gear and be able to get the car moving again requires a little more work). If you slow down gently and gradually you will give yourself more time to look and assess the traffic on and approaching the roundabout. As you are wanting to fit in with the flow of traffic you do not want to get to the end of your road without having space to move into – the slower you go the more likely you are to spot a gap and be able to move into it. If you stop at the roundabout you will have less time and space to get moving into a gap whereas if you approach slowly and creep towards the roundabout leaving plenty of space in front of you then you will have a greater chance of spotting a gap and having time to get into it.
You will need to look to the right as you approach the roundabout AND to the direction you are travelling. You need to pay as much attention to the vehicles and road layout in front of you as you do to those on or approaching the roundabout. Keep your eyes moving to kep track of all that is happening around you. Do not look only at what is on the roundabout, you need to assess how quickly other vehicles are approaching the roundabout and where they are going. When you have done this you can work out if you will be in their way if you go or if there is a space for you to drive into. Things can change quickly and when you also consider the possibilities of bikes and vehicles alongside you then you understand why roundabouts can be quite stressful. The decision about when to go is yours and whilst learning you can use your instructor / accompanying drivers experience to help you. Remember, if in doubt, wait and when you go, go well. Your actions affect others and if you are indecisive then they do not know what to expect, so as far as possible try to act quickly and positively when you have made your decision.
When reaching the roundabout you should
- give priority to traffic approaching from your right, unless directed otherwise by signs, road markings or traffic lights
- check whether road markings allow you to enter the roundabout without giving way. If so, proceed, but still look to the right before joining
- watch out for all other road users already on the roundabout; be aware they may not be signalling correctly or at all
- look forward before moving off to make sure traffic in front has moved off.
Rule 185: Follow the correct procedure at roundabouts
At double mini-roundabouts and multiple roundabouts you will need to repeat the Look, Assess, Decide, Act at each one. In these situations your signal and position may be different from “normal” due to the short approach to each roundabout. Use the videos to help understand how you navigate these complex junctions.
At double mini-roundabouts treat each roundabout separately and give way to traffic from the right.
Multiple roundabouts. At some complex junctions, there may be a series of mini-roundabouts at each intersection. Treat each mini-roundabout separately and follow the normal rules.
Rule 190: Treat each roundabout separately