As we all know, roundabouts are situated at the intersection or junction of two or more roads. They are designed to ensure that traffic coming from any of the roads to the junction can enter the roundabout and then safely mix with other traffic already using it to then exit onto their required road. One of the key points on the approach is scan for view, to plan and think well ahead about timing our arrival at the roundabout, at the right speed, in the right gear and in the correct lane (or position) to blend and safely fit into the traffic flow when possible. The adage for negotiating roundabouts is still as true as ever: ‘I’m planning to stop – but also looking to go’.
There are broadly three different styles of roundabouts: single, multiple (or series) and mini-roundabouts. As the rules for negotiating these are well illustrated in the Highway Code (pages 64 to 66), let’s look at some of the additional aspects which Advanced Drivers should also consider.
Whilst it sounds obvious, it’s essential we know in advance which road off the roundabout we want when exiting the roundabout. On primary roads there’s nearly always a large green advance warning sign prominently displaying the different exit road numbers and the next town or village along that road. But, just as importantly on that sign is the plan showing the road exit layout and the shape of the roundabout.
So, if you are not familiar with the roundabout, it’s very important to look carefully at the advance warning sign. Have a look at these photographs think about how, if at Carnon Gate Roundabout we wish to take the A39 towards Truro, we might position our car, or possibly give a signal, to tell other road users what we intend to do.
Scan and search
As we approach, start early ‘scanning and searching’ for view by looking for traffic already using the roundabout, looking for any traffic approaching or waiting to enter on our right-hand side, and for any designated lane marking arrows which we should use and finally check about any other traffic behind or beside you. This pre-planning is essential if we are to safely fit and blend into the traffic. For example, if we’ve spotted a safe entry timing slot, maybe by slightly slowing down on the approach we can then safely and smoothly enter the roundabout with minimum braking.
On almost all cars there is a ‘blind spot’ created by the driver’s side windscreen pillar (called the A-post). So, as we approach, and especially near the threshold (or entry point), make sure you move your head left and right of the A-post to make sure there’s nothing hidden from your view. There have been many accidents caused by motorists not doing this and then claiming…. ‘suddenly there was this car coming from my right…’.
Driving on the roundabout
Once you’ve entered the roundabout you may have other traffic ahead, beside or behind you that could conflict with your plan so always check use your mirrors (and especially your nearside mirror) before changing lanes or exiting the roundabout. Sometimes a left or right shoulder check will alert you to other vehicles whom you may not have seen, particularly on busy multi-lane roundabouts!
Car drivers training with Cornwall Advanced Drivers to take their IAM advanced driving test will receive expert tuition from one of our Observers which may reduce some of the roundabout fears.