Roundabouts: A Guide For Learner Drivers
For many learner drivers, roundabouts can be a gauntlet. They often have fast-moving traffic and multiple lanes can increase the confusion even further. For nervous learners, roundabouts are a key place where it’s easy to get panicked and make bad decisions. There are three key areas to focus on here: your approach, what to do when you’re on the roundabout, and leaving the roundabout. For learner drivers, here’s a quick guide to roundabouts.
What Are Roundabouts?
A roundabout is a circular intersection allowing traffic to flow in one direction around a central island. Anyone living in the UK who has been in the car with their parents, or travelled on a bus or in a taxi, will have been familiar with these for most of their lives. However, in other places throughout the world, such as the US, roundabouts are far rarer. So, anyone living in the UK having moved here from abroad may find roundabouts highly confusing at first. Even learners who are familiar with roundabouts can find them baffling at first. Don’t worry, this is normal! Hopefully, the following tips will be of use to you.
Approaching the Roundabout
Remember your checks. Check your interior mirror first, then whichever mirror corresponds to the way you’re going. Left mirror if you’re turning left, right mirror if you’re turning right, and neither if you’re going straight ahead. Remember to signal which way you’re going, or not at all if you’re going straight ahead.
Is the roundabout open or closed? An open roundabout is one where you can clearly see the roundabout you’re approaching. These are easier roundabouts to approach as they allow you to clearly assess the traffic conditions and whether you will need to stop at the roundabout, or whether you can continue onto it smoothly.
Closed roundabouts, by contrast, are ones where your view of the roundabout is obscured until you make your final approach, possibly by high walls or fences. These require more caution on the approach, as you cannot be sure of the traffic conditions.
When approaching, timing is everything. On the approach, you need to consider when to break, as well as when to engage the clutch in order to change gear. The timing for this can be tricky, and getting the timing right is often the key to handling roundabouts confidently.
If you break too early, you will come into the roundabout slowly, and this will hold up any traffic behind you. Approach too fast, and you risk stopping too late and partially entering the roundabout, which poses a danger to you and other road users.
Similarly, learning when to engage the clutch and change to whichever gear is necessary will help you feel more confident on the approach and will enable you to respond more effectively to the traffic conditions.
Check your gear. Roundabouts are best handled in second gear, however, if you need to stop at the intersection you must be prepared to switch to first gear promptly.
Ensure you’re positioned in the correct lane. Road signs are your friend here – they will tell you which lane you need to be in relative to which exit you’re taking.
Also, make sure your car is pointed the way you’re going. If you’re turning left, point yourself slightly to the left as you pull up. If you’re turning right, point yourself to the right. This is just like an average junction.
Constantly and briskly check to the right on the approach. This will help you know if you need to give way. Alternate this with looking where you are going.
On the Roundabout
Maintain proper speed. It’s important to match your speed with the speed of other drivers once you’re on the roundabout. Not doing so could cause an accident, as roundabouts are a fast-moving, constant stream of traffic.
You will often need to switch up a gear whilst on the roundabout. Practice this to ensure you can do it confidently.
Keep an eye on your positioning. Keep left if you’re turning left, and ensure you’re not veering too far to the right when turning right. Keeping an eye on the edge of the central island is a good way to do this, as well as making sure to keep your hand steady on the wheel.
Leaving the Roundabout
Speed up. It’s beneficial to give yourself an extra boost of speed when leaving a roundabout. Don’t exceed the speed limit, but give the accelerator a little bit extra when you’re moving off. This is especially important if you’re leaving the roundabout onto a road with a higher speed limit, as other drivers will also be looking to speed up.
Final checks. Don’t forget your final mirror check as you move off the roundabout, and be especially careful if exiting requires you to transition across lanes. Other drivers may be looking to overtake you at this point, so keeping an eye on your right-hand blind spot will allow you to avoid any possible accidents.