Skip to main content

Enjoy Magazine

Roundabout Rules of the Road

05/25/2018 11:00AM ● By Sandie Tillery

Calming Circles

June 2018
By Sandie Tillery
Photos by Sarah Marie Spectrum

GET USED TO THEM, those circles in the road that slow down traffic and confuse drivers from every direction. They’re not a new concept, but seem to confound even seasoned drivers. What are they? Why are they here? And what are the driving rules and proper etiquette? 

North State roadways are evolving, modernizing and addressing safety issues in creative new ways. Modern roundabouts now punctuate neighborhoods and high-traffic intersections in growing numbers. Recently completed improvements along Victor Avenue between Hartnell Avenue and Enterprise Park in Redding include two of these circular intersections, each with unique design variations. 

Shasta View Drive has also been graced with quite decorative roundabouts over the past few years as two schools share the bustle during peak hours. According to Chuck Aukland, assistant director of Redding Public Works, several more are in the plans for the future including along the Old Alturas, Victor Avenue and South Bonnyview Road corridors. 

The Federal Highway Administration reports that roundabouts reduce severe injury and fatal collisions by 78 to 82 percent. They eliminate the chances of broadside and high-speed collisions. 

The nature of the curved design reduces speeds to 18 to 25 miles per hour. They are also said to decrease fuel emissions, increase roadway capacity and improve traffic circulation. In addition, explains Aukland, “When designed correctly at the appropriate locations, roundabouts are a very beneficial tool the city uses to improve safety, increase operational efficiency and reduce long-term system maintenance costs.” 

Since these are a fairly new phenomenon in this part of the world, many people are confused and frustrated by them. What are the rules for driving through such an intersection? According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, when you approach a roundabout:Slow down.

Yield to pedestrians and bicyclists crossing the roadway.

Watch for signs and/or pavement markings that guide you or  prohibit certain movements.

Enter the roundabout (heading to the right) when there is a big enough gap in traffic to merge safely.

Travel in a counter-clockwise direction. Do not stop or pass.

 Signal when you change lanes or exit the roundabout.

 If you miss your exit, continue around until you return to your exit.

 For roundabouts with multiple lanes, choose your entry or exit lane based on your destination.

Drivers are reminded to pull over for emergency vehicles, leaving the roundabout if necessary to make room for them to pass. Large trucks also need extra room to navigate in the circles, so don’t try to pass, even in two-lane roundabouts. 

Sometimes long lines of traffic coming from one direction flow steadily through the roundabout, not allowing enough space for intersecting traffic to join the queue. Patience is required. Unless traffic lights or signs direct otherwise, whoever enters first has the right of way. The basic rule is to always yield to traffic coming from the left. Courtesy might suggest that pauses would allow incoming traffic to alternate with oncoming traffic. But, basic common sense again reigns. 

Change is often difficult to navigate; however, learning  comes from doing. Roundabouts, sometimes called calming circles, slow us down through congested neighborhoods and high-traffic roadways and save lives, the best argument in their favor. •