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How to navigate Roundabouts

The first British roundabout was in Letchworth Garden City in 1909 it was originally intended partly as a traffic island for pedestrians. Research has shown that Roundabouts are much safer than road junctions. Accident rates have greatly reduced where roundabouts have replaced junctions or intersections. Roundabouts are often placed in city centres as an alternative to large traffic light intersections. They are most commonly used on dual carriageways as a means of controlling traffic and thus reducing speed.

Research has shown that many people don't understand roundabouts.  Many drivers don't know how to position their car correctly when approaching or travelling around the roundabout.  Some are unaware of how to signal properly when joining or when exiting roundabouts.  Therefore, drivers need to be cautious when other cars on the roundabout are signalling. For example, if a car is indicating left it may not mean the driver is taking the first exit off the roundabout; he may in fact have signalled too early and actually wants to come off the next exit straight on his left.

Roundabouts may be safer than junctions but concentration and extreme caution is advised when using roundabouts. Keep well back from the car in front to avoid the "roundabout shunt".

Click on the third picture on the right to see what is reputed to be the most difficult roundabout in Britain to navigate. It is situated in Swindon and the locals refer to it as Swindon's Magic Roundabout.

Highway Code Advice


On approaching a roundabout take notice and act on all the information available to you, including traffic signs, traffic lights and lane markings which direct you into the correct lane. You should:

  • use Mirrors - Signal - Manoeuvre at all stages
  • decide as early as possible which exit you need to take
  • give an appropriate signal (see Rule 186). Time your signals so as not to confuse other road users
  • get into the correct lane
  • adjust your speed and position to fit in with traffic conditions
  • be aware of the speed and position of all the road users around you


When reaching the roundabout you should:

  • Give priority to traffic approaching from your right, unless directed otherwise by signs, road markings or traffic lights
  • Check whether road markings allow you to enter the roundabout without giving way. If so, proceed, but still look to the right before joining
  • Watch out for all other road users already on the roundabout; be aware they may not be signalling correctly or at all

Look forward before moving off to make sure traffic in front has moved off


Signals and position:

When taking the first exit to the left, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise

  • Signal left and approach in the left-hand lane
  • Keep to the left on the roundabout and continue signalling left to leave

When taking an exit to the right or going full circle, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise

  • Signal right and approach in the right-hand lane
  • Keep to the right on the roundabout until you need to change lanes to exit the roundabout
  • Signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you want

When taking any intermediate exit, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise:

  • Select the appropriate lane on approach to the roundabout 
  • You should not normally need to signal on approach
  • Stay in this lane until you need to alter course to exit the roundabout
  • Signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you want

When there are more than three lanes at the entrance to a roundabout, use the most appropriate lane on approach and through it.


In all cases watch out for and give plenty of room to:

  • Pedestrians who may be crossing the approach and exit roads
  • Traffic crossing in front of you on the roundabout, especially vehicles intending to leave by the next exit
  • Traffic which may be straddling lanes or positioned incorrectly
  • Motorcyclists cyclists and horse riders who may stay in the left-hand lane and signal right if they intend to continue round the roundabout. Allow them to do so
  • Long vehicles (including those towing trailers). These might have to take a different course or straddle lanes either approaching or on the roundabout because of their length. Watch out for their signals


Mini-roundabouts. Approach these in the same way as normal roundabouts. All vehicles MUST pass round the central markings except large vehicles which are physically incapable of doing so. Remember, there is less space to manoeuvre and less time to signal. Avoid making U-turns at mini-roundabouts. Beware of others doing this.

[Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10(1) & 16(1)]


At double mini-roundabouts treat each roundabout separately and give way to traffic from the right.


Multiple roundabouts. At some complex junctions, there may be a series of mini-roundabouts at each intersection. Treat each mini-roundabout separately and follow the normal rules.

There is no better way of understanding roundabouts than reading the Highway Code. We urge you to buy a copy and brush up on all driving procedures. 

How to navigate Roundabouts

Tips and Advice - Article No 53 RoadDriver 2010

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