How to Drive Safely in Roundabouts

Cities install roundabouts to improve the safety and efficiency of some of the roads’ most dangerous sites: intersections. In Arizona in 2018, 276 car accidents happened at intersections. The number of intersection accidents almost matched the number of speeding-related accidents in Arizona the same year (285). A misunderstanding of how roundabouts work has led to many of these preventable accidents.

Common Causes of Roundabout Car Accidents

Roundabouts can be intimidating for drivers who are used to standard four-way intersections. Many drivers may not understand how a roundabout operates, such as when to enter the roundabout or how to safely exit. Drivers may get confused while in the roundabout and make mistakes such as merging lanes or trying to dart across traffic to make an exit. Basic roundabout safety could prevent many causes of car accidents.

  • Rolling through stop signs
  • Ignoring roadway signs
  • Failing to yield the right-of-way
  • Speeding
  • Failing to watch for cyclists and pedestrians
  • Making unsafe or illegal merges
  • Driving while intoxicated

Studies show the most common types of accidents in roundabouts are rear-end collisions, collisions with bicyclists and pedestrians, crashes upon entering the roundabout, and single-vehicle collisions with center islands. While roundabouts remove many serious risks related to four-way stops, such as T-bone accidents and red-light running, they can be the settings of catastrophic car accidents, personal injuries and deaths when drivers use them incorrectly. If you suffered injuries in a roundabout accident, a Peoria car accident lawyer can help you recover compensation.

Who Has the Right-of-Way?

Drivers already in the roundabout will bear the right-of-way. Come to a stop when you approach a roundabout in Arizona. Look to your left to see if there are any oncoming vehicles already in the roundabout. If so, you must yield the right-of-way to these drivers. You cannot dart out into traffic that is already in the roundabout and expect them to brake or stop. Instead, wait until the way is clear. Then, proceed safely into the roundabout at a reasonable speed.

Rules for Driving in Roundabouts

Roundabouts in the US circulate counterclockwise. When you pull into a roundabout, you will pull to the right and travel counterclockwise around the circle to your exit. Know which exit you need to take before you enter the roundabout. If the roundabout has two lanes, choose the lane that makes sense for your exit. If you are taking the first exit, use the lane farthest to the outside of the circle. Choose the interior lane if you need to travel past other exits before reaching yours. Do not switch lanes while in the roundabout. If you miss your exit, continue going around the circle until you come to it again.

Pay attention to the speed limit. Most speed limits in roundabouts are 15 to 20 miles per hour. Maintain a slow and consistent speed while in the roundabout. Watch for bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as other vulnerable road users, such as people on scooters and mopeds. Pedestrians will have the right-of-way at any crosswalks in the roundabout. If you are near a vehicle with a large turn radius, such as a tractor-trailer or firetruck, stay behind the vehicle to avoid a sideswipe accident.

Safety Benefits of Roundabouts

When used correctly, roundabouts can be much safer than traditional intersections. Roundabouts only have 8 potential vehicle-to-vehicle conflict points, while a four-way intersection has 32. Research from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety shows a 90% reduction rate in fatal car accidents after the installation of roundabouts, as well as a 75% reduction in the number of accidents with personal injuries.

Roundabouts also reduce pedestrian collisions by 30% to 40% and bicycle crashes by 10%. Furthermore, roundabouts relieve traffic congestion by 30% to 50%. With no signals or stops, drivers can continue directly through roundabouts instead of contributing to backed-up traffic. Roundabouts make for quieter neighborhoods and fewer vehicle emissions as well. If everyone uses a roundabout correctly, it could reduce the number of car accidents in a community.