Cheney Free Press -

By Lee Hughes
Staff Reporter 

Navigating roundabouts for squares


February 7, 2019


Roundabouts are intentionally designed to reduce speeds.

Unlike stop-and-go intersections, roundabouts keep traffic flowing continuously in a one-way, counter-clockwise direction. Remember that: traffic moves one-way counterclockwise.

Basic rules

There are four basic rules for roundabouts.

Rule 1: Go slow. Roundabouts are designed to force drivers to slow down as they approach. Continue slowly as you maneuver through it.

Rule 2: Traffic inside the roundabout has the right-of-way. Always yield to traffic coming from your left when entering a roundabout, only proceeding once you see a safe gap in traffic. And you don't have to stop if it's clear, similar to a blinking yellow light at a signalized intersection. Just look to your left, and then proceed with caution.

Rule 3: You have the right-of-way once you're inside the roundabout - other drivers must yield to you.

Rule 4: Never stop once you're inside the roundabout. But common sense applies as well: do stop if you're at risk if hitting another driver.

Single-lane roundabouts

There are two types of roundabouts: single-lane and multi-lane.

Single-lane roundabouts are simple. Turning right? Enter the roundabout and immediately exit to the right. Going straight? Enter the roundabout, maneuver along its curve, then exit the roundabout and continue forward.

Turning left is somewhat counterintuitive. To go left you must first go right, and into the roundabout because traffic moves one-way counterclockwise, much like a merry-go-round. Once inside the roundabout, travel slowly around its curve, then exit to the right on the street you wish to take.

Note: you never turn directly left into a roundabout to make a left-hand turn. If you do, you may suffer a head-on collision with another vehicle - and you will be at fault. Always maneuver counterclockwise around the roundabout to make a left-hand turn.

Multi-Lane roundabouts

The rules for a single-lane roundabout are the same for a multi-lane roundabout, but with the added twist of another lane. All the rules for a single-lane roundabout apply to multi-lane roundabouts.

Rule 1: Stay in the outside, right lane of a multi-lane roundabout if you are turning right or going straight through the intersection.

Rule 2: Use the inside lane if you are turning left at a roundabout intersection, or if you are making a U-turn and going back in the direction you came from.

Multi-lane roundabouts have signs placed in advance of the roundabout that graphically describe which lane to use based on the direction you want to travel. But you'll need to decide which lane to use before you enter the multi-lane roundabout, just as you would with a signalized intersection.


The rules for use of turn signals are the same in a roundabout: communicate your intentions. There is no need to use your blinker until you have entered and are preparing to exit the roundabout to the right, so you would use your right-hand blinker to indicate to other drivers that you're exiting.

Other things to keep in mind

Avoid driving right next to another vehicle in a roundabout, especially a large truck or bus. Stay staggered. Larger vehicles - semitrailers, busses, RVs, - need extra space. Longer semitrailers and articulated busses may use the truck apron located on a roundabouts central island as they maneuver through. Give them room.

Bicyclists have two choices at roundabouts: go through with traffic, or get off and walk your bicycle along the designated crosswalks. If you choose to ride, all vehicle rules apply.

Finally, watch for pedestrians. Roundabouts have proven safer for pedestrians than other types of intersections, mainly due to the slower speeds used by vehicles, according to WSDOT. Crosswalks are typically well marked, but are placed ahead of the roundabout itself, so watch for pedestrians crossing as you approach the roundabout intersection.

If roundabouts, especially multilane roundabouts, seem intimidating, keep in mind that you'll get familiar with using after several attempts. Several studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that while only 31-36 percent of drivers held a positive opinion of roundabouts, upwards of 70 percent supported them after they had been in place for a year.


Roundabouts in one form or another have been around since the late 18th century, mainly in Europe. France had more than 30,000 by 2010.

Roundabouts first began to appear in the U.S. in the 1990s. A 2016 study counted 10,341 roundabouts in the U.S., and placed the ratio of traditional intersections to roundabouts at 1,118 to 1. Florida has the most with 1,283, while France tops the international charts with 1 roundabout for every 45 intersections.

Lee Hughes can be reached at


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