How to use a Roundabout

How to Use a Roundabout Correctly: Traffic Rules & Signaling

by Zutobi · Updated Oct 30, 2023

Mastering a roundabout means knowing its structure and function in maintaining safe traffic flow along with understanding the key navigation principles.

In this article, we explain:

  • How to navigate roundabouts
  • Common mistakes and how to avoid them
  • Differences between roundabouts and traffic circles

What Is a Roundabout?

A roundabout is a circular intersection where vehicles move counterclockwise around a central island. There are no traffic lights to regulate the flow of cars. Instead, circulating vehicles have the right-of-way, and those entering must yield to them.

Roundabout Signs

Roundabout Signs
Roundabout Signs

Multi-lane vs. Single-lane Roundabouts

Multi-lane and single-lane roundabouts adhere to the same traffic rules. However, in multi-lane roundabouts, drivers must choose their entry lane based on their intended exit. Thus, to turn right at the intersection, a driver must select the right lane.

Why Roundabouts are Useful

Roundabouts Statistics
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IHS) showed that fatal crashes decreased by almost 90% at intersections with traffic controls after being replaced by roundabouts
  • Enhanced Safety: Roundabouts minimize the risk of severe injuries from right-angle, head-on, and high-speed collisions and feature crosswalks set further from entering traffic, providing safer pedestrian routes.
  • Boosted Traffic Flow: The yield-at-entry rule in roundabouts facilitates uninterrupted traffic flow and reduces unnecessary wait times. 
  • Diverse Circulation: Roundabouts are important for intersections used by large trucks, allowing them to navigate easily.
  • Improved Sustainability: Continuous movement reduces vehicle idling, leading to lower emissions and better air quality. Also, fewer stops minimize roadway wear, prolonging its durability.

How to Use a Roundabout

Turning Right

Turning Right in a Roundabout
Turning Right in a Roundabout
  1. Choose the right-hand lane unless road markings indicate otherwise.
  2. Activate the right turn signal before entering.
  3. Keep the vehicle in the right lane and exit.
  4. Deactivate the right turn signal.

Going Straight

Going Straight in a Roundabout
Going Straight in a Roundabout
  1. Select either the left or right lane.
  2. Don’t activate any turn signals before entering.
  3. As you approach the intended exit, activate the right turn signal.
  4. Exit and deactivate the right turn signal.

Turning Left

Turning Left in a Roundabout
Turning Left in a Roundabout
  1. Enter the left lane, respecting all signage and road markings.
  2. Activate the left turn signal before entering.
  3. Remain in the left lane, following the roundabout’s curve.
  4. Approaching the exit, activate the right signal.
  5. Exit and deactivate the turn signal.

Making U-turns

U-turn in a Roundabout
U-turn in a Roundabout
  1. Select the left lane, adhering to road markings.
  2. Activate the left turn signal before entering.
  3. Circulate in the left lane, passing the first and second exits.
  4. Nearing the third exit (from your initial entry point), activate the right turn signal.
  5. Leave the roundabout on the third exit and deactivate the turn signal.


When leaving the roundabout, check the mirrors and blind spots to make sure you can exit safely. If it’s unsafe to exit, circle around the roundabout and try again. As you leave, join traffic flow at a safe speed, and keep an eye on road signs and anyone on foot or bike.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in a Roundabout

Don’t drive through roundabouts like this

Not Yielding the Right of Way

  • Traffic Flow Disruptions: By not yielding, drivers disrupt the smooth flow of traffic, leading to sudden braking or swerving.
  • Accident Risks: When multiple vehicles enter the roundabout simultaneously, not yielding the right of way can lead to T-bone collisions.
  • Road User Conflicts: Failure to yield puts vulnerable road users crossing the roundabout at risk.

Speeding or Stopping 

By speeding up, drivers won’t have enough time to yield to other vehicles or navigate the roundabout correctly, which leads to lane confusion and right-of-way issues.

Drivers are advised to maintain a speed limit of 15-25 mph, depending on traffic conditions and visibility. But even in heavy traffic or low visibility, stopping inside a roundabout is prohibited, as this disrupts the movement and potentially leads to collisions.

Changing Lanes

Lane changes not only disrupt the movement but also increase collision risks. Drivers should select the appropriate lane for their intended exit before entering the roundabout.

How to Change a Lane Safely

  1. Check Surroundings: Ensure a clear view of adjacent lanes and consistently use mirrors.
  2. Signal Early: Turn on your indicator to show the lane change intention, providing a warning to drivers behind.
  3. Monitor Blind Spots: Regularly check for not immediately visible vehicles.
  4. Change Decisively: When a safe gap emerges, change your lane smoothly without hesitation.

Roundabout vs. Traffic Circle

RoundaboutTraffic Circle
Design SizeGenerally smaller in diameterTypically larger with a wider circulating roadway
Speed ManagementDesigned to lower speeds (15-25 mph)May allow for higher speeds
Operational PrincipleVehicles on the circulating road have a priorityPriority can vary or be managed by signals
Traffic ControlUtilizes yield signs at entriesMay use traffic signals or stop signs
Traffic FlowContinuous flow, drivers yield upon enteringFlow can be interrupted by traffic controls
Lane ChangingDiscouraged due to compact designMay allow lane changes within the circle
Pedestrian AccessPedestrian crossings are often available away from the entry/exitPedestrian facilities may vary
Cyclist AccessCyclists often mix with vehicular traffic or use a separate pathMay not accommodate cyclists effectively
SafetyTends to have fewer and less severe collisionsCollision rates and severity can be higher
Roundabout vs. Traffic Circle Comparison

Master Roundabout Rules for your Driver’s Test

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