Whether you’re a relative newbie when it comes to driving or you’ve racked up your fair share of miles over the years, roundabouts can still make motorists of all stripes see red. Unfortunately, unless you plan on driving out of your way, there’s pretty much no avoiding one of the 10,000 roundabouts found across the UK.

With that said, things could be worse. At least none of us have to traverse the roundabout surrounding Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, with its 12 intersecting streets, or New York’s fearsome and fully loaded Columbus Circle. Though bad luck if you live near Swindon; its seven-circle Magic Roundabout is the stuff of nightmares.

But no matter their size, roundabouts can still be tricky to navigate when you don’t know what you’re doing. If the thought of driving in circles is sending you ‘round the bend, then don’t worry. Below, we’ll run through the rules that surround roundabout so you can them with confidence and ease next time you’re faced with one.

Who has right of way at a roundabout?

If you break out the Highway Code, you’ll see that the only priority rule is that drivers inside the roundabout have the right-of-way over drivers entering the roundabout. Should you be approaching a roundabout, you need to give way to any drivers on the roundabout and wait for a clear path to open before entering.

cars on a roundabout

How should I approach a roundabout?

Despite their circular nature, roundabouts are simply a type of junction, so you should approach them in the same way. So, whenever you see a red triangle warning sign with a black arrow emblem inside, or a circular blue sign with three white circular arrows inside (for mini-roundabouts), remember the MSPSL – or Mirror, Signal, Position, Speed, Look – routine.

One positive about roundabouts is that you can assess the traffic flow and adjust your speed with ease. In fact, you may even be able to enter the roundabout without stopping. Watch out for drivers stopping at the give way line when it isn’t necessary, by the way. Even if it’s clear, don’t assume that the car in front of you will enter the roundabout.

Turning left at a roundabout

Should you need to turn left at a roundabout, you should always approach it in the left lane.

Stay in the left-hand lane the entire time you’re on the roundabout, keep your left indicator on, and leave at the first exit.

Continuing straight ahead at a roundabout

If you need to travel straight on through a roundabout, then you’ll generally need to use the left-hand lane. However, in some cases, the left-hand lane might only be for left turns only, so look out for signs that indicate this.

cars driving up to roundabout

Larger roundabouts might also have a designated lane for driving straight over, too. Keep an eye on any road markings that might say so as you approach.

After you pass the first exit, check your main mirror, followed by your left door mirror. Signal left and when the coast is clear, exit the roundabout.

Turning right at a roundabout

When turning right at a roundabout (which is generally the third exit), make sure you approach in the right-hand lane and signal right. Continue in the right-hand lane until you pass the second exit.

Check your main mirror, then your left door mirror before signalling left. You may also have to move into the left lane before exiting. Be sure to check your blind spot by glancing over your left shoulder; once you’re in the left lane, you’re ready to exit.

Using a multi-lane traffic light-controlled roundabout

Good news for nervous drivers: traffic light-controlled roundabouts tend to be a lot safer, since they control the flow of traffic and there’s no need to give way to the right.

That said, it’s well worth checking to the right when you have a green light; you never know when a driver may go through a red when they shouldn’t. It’s also wise to watch out for any emergency vehicles that might have to go through a red too.

big roundabout

Such roundabouts might also have give-way lines, signs and road markings when there are multiple lines. Be on the watch for these, as they can help guide you into the right lane.

Can I overtake on a roundabout?

No. Should you find the exit be blocked by a car that has stalled, then move into first gear and wait for them to get going again. Under no circumstances should you attempt to overtake on a roundabout. If you’re yet to take your driving test, then be sure to remember this rule!

What are the rules for mini roundabouts?

If you’re used to driving through residential areas, then you’ll find many a mini roundabout on your journeys. The same rules we discussed above apply to these smaller versions, although who has priority can be a bit confusing, so take note of the following.

If there are no cars on the mini roundabout but there are some approaching from different entrances, then you should give way to traffic approaching from the right, unless directed otherwise by signs. Look out for the driver before moving off to judge whether they’re giving way or not.

You might have to reduce your speed even further when navigating smaller roundabouts. And if you’re driving, or towing, a vehicle that’s too large to navigate a mini roundabout, you’ll have to pass around the central markings instead.

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