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Roundabouts

The general rule is keep left unless you are turning right, unless road markings tell you differently, or you are overtaking. If there are no road markings to contradict, then the following applies:

1st exit left:
Indicate left on the approach, and keep in the left lane. Some roundabouts allow a left turn in the middle lane (3-lane), or right lane (2-lane). Use these with extreme caution as there could be conflicting traffic on your left. You would normally only use one of these lanes if you were going to turn right immediately after your exit.

2nd exit, but not as far around as straight ahead; or a straight ahead exit:
If it is a 2-lane approach then don't indicator initially, keep left, and indicate left to exit after passing the exit prior to the one you want.

When there is a 3 lane entrance to the roundabout the left lane is usually left turn only (photo below).

 

Roundabout three lane approach, left lane for left turn only, middle lane for straight ahead

 

This may be defined by road markings, but may not. If there are no road markings look at the roundabout itself. If there are three lanes on the approach and there are only two lanes in the roundabout, then the left lane must be left turn only.

But if there are three lanes on the approach and there are three lanes in the roundabout, then you should be able to use the left lane to go straight ahead .

 

Three lane roundabout entrance but left lane can be jused for straight ahead

 

Any exit to the right:
Indicate right on the approach, keep in the right lane, and indicate left to exit. Try to exit in the left lane if it is clear. If the left lane isn't clear and there is a right lane, exit in that. In extreme circumstances you may need to go around full circle if you are unable to exit safely because of traffic on your left side.

Overtaking through:
If the queue approaching a roundabout is very long in the left hand lane, or there is traffic moving very slowly in the left hand lane, then you can overtake through the roundabout by using the right hand lane to go straight ahead. You can exit in the left or the right lane. However to be safe, only overtake through a roundabout if you are 100% sure that there is a two lane exit, otherwise you may have nowhere to go.

 

Overtaking through a roundabout if the road markings on the lanes allow

 

Speed control:
Roundabouts are just a series of bends, so to control the speed properly around them you will need to balance the gas against the steering (piece of string method). Once you've pulled away safely into the traffic flow, and got to a reasonable speed, then ease off the gas as you turn in to any curve, ease on the gas as you straighten. For each steady curve of the lane, you should have steady gas. If you just accelerate all the way through, there won't be enough time to steer properly. This will lead to not being able to stay in lane.

Keeping in lane:
When going straight ahead in the left lane it is very easy to cut into the right lane on the latter part of the roundabout (straight-lining) . To judge your lane position on left curves look to your left front side, for right curves look to your right front side. Try to keep a constant distance from the the roundabout centre, and imagine there is a truck next to you in the other lane.

Roundabouts often don't have lane markings on them, but you will often see small lines of tarmac that you can use to judge where a lane should be. When going straight ahead you will see on most larger roundabouts that there is an area on the far left that no-one ever drives into. it's normally full of debris; try to avoid this area if you can.

Assessing the traffic flow:
Try to work out what is happening as you approach, and try to keep moving if you can (photo below). Look at the roundabout as a whole. Any traffic coming from the left, that is turning towards you, will affect the traffic on your right, and may give you the opportunity to continue. Likewise any traffic from the opposite side of the roundabout, straight ahead of you, is likely to interrupt the traffic from your right, as it comes across. Large vehicles often provide a gap as they block parts of the roundabout as they turn.

 

Approaching a roundabout and assessing the traffic flow

 

Approach speed:
If you can try to adjust your speed on approach to fit in with the traffic flow so you don't have to stop unnecessarily. However approach at a speed so that you can stop behind the line, even if it looks like it might be clear to proceed. Then if anything takes you by surprise, you can still stop safely.

Note: Stopping when the roundabout is clear can fail you on test, because drivers behind won't expect it, and you may cause an accident (although legally it would be be the fault of the driver behind ?)

For a general simple approach method you can approach all roundabouts in second gear: Get the speed down to 20mph, and then into 2nd gear, before you get to the final approach curve (photo below). Either continue in that gear if the roundabout is clear - or stop and put it into first gear.

 

Identifying the point where the kerb curves into the roundabout

 

The most important thing is to get the approach speed right: If you don't get the speed pinned down on approach you will not be able to maintain your lane position, and you won't have time to look properly! Many people find it difficult get the entrance speed right, especially after a long straight. It is often the gear change, whilst slowing that confuses. Just remember that if you are going too fast - Stay on the brake!  If necessary, change gear, AND bring the clutch up, while you are still braking. If you're going too fast - Stay on the brake!  

NOTE:. When you are pulling away you can't get the biting point while you are on the brake - while you are slowing down you can!

Positioning for a good view:
If you are not in the right-hand lane yourself, then try not to be alongside another vehicle that is in the right-hand lane. This is because the car (or more usually a 4-wheel drive, or white van man) next to you on your right will block your view of the roundabout. Try to stay either just ahead of them so that you can see, or just behind them.

 

View of the traffic blocked at the roundabout by traffic in the right lane

 

Always make sure that you can see fully and never pull out next to someone that is partially blocking your view  (photo above) – they will not protect you!
A truck coming from your right that you cannot see, may miss the van (etc) next to you, and flatten you instead.

When to pull out:
Look for traffic exiting the roundabout that will create a gap for you (photo below). If you can pull out without slowing anyone down, or causing them to take avoiding action, then go. However, it is dangerous to pull out if another vehicle is moving fast enough, and is close enough to hit you, because they may not go where you think they will. So if you are in any doubt - WAIT

 

Judging a gap to pul out at a roundabout

 

Make sure that you don't pull out next to someone going around the roundabout in the right hand lane, close to the centre. They won't remain in the right hand lane forever, and they may try to come off the next exit, with you next to them!

Always double-check your decision before & after pulling out. If you don't check to the right again just after you cross the give way line, you won't know what's happening on your right. And if you don't know what's happening, you can't take evasive action!  But also, make sure that you pull out checking forwards as well, because if the car in front stops unexpectedly, you might drive straight into the back of it!

In Basildon there are many roundabouts where traffic can turn right from the middle lane: This can be very deceiving when you are waiting to pull out - Expect this to happen, and don't take chances.

If the roundabout is very busy, and you are waiting for ages to pull out. Don't worry. There is no time limit. If you can't go' you can't go! You will only get a fault on test if you don't go when there is a good gap. If your examiner is sitting next to you thinking "Why didn't they go then?" you have probably got a minor fault. It normally takes 4 minor faults within the same category to fail. So it's much better to miss a couple of small gaps and get two minor faults, than to go when it is not safe and get one serious (fail).