Around We Go

By: Whitley Newman Insurance
July 22, 2020

Have you noticed a new roundabout during your travels lately?  Yes, one of those circular intersections we see on our roads that can cause fear and anxiety for so many drivers.

Although they began appearing in Ontario in the 1990’s, roundabouts have been around in other countries for quite some time. They were first introduced to American roadways in the 1930’s and in European countries afterwards.

These early concepts were a failure however, as they were actually dangerous and created excessive traffic congestion. Unlike today, vehicles that were entering the roundabout were given the right of way and the vehicles in the roundabout were expected to yield, resulting in traffic chaos.    

In the 1960’s, this concept changed to a much safer approach when the Transport Research Laboratory in the UK developed the modern roundabout, which gave priority to vehicles within the circle. In 1966, this rule was made into law, and the USA and Canada began designing and building roundabouts to these standards in the late 1990’s. Today, there are over 500 roundabouts in Canada and over 10,000 in the USA.

Why do we have roundabouts?

It’s all about safety and traffic flow. The U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety assessed several studies on intersections that were converted from signal lights or stop signs to roundabouts, and estimated that the number of crashes causing injuries fell between 72 to 80 per cent, and all collisions were down by 35 to 47 per cent. They also offer better traffic flow and management as they eliminate stop signs, traffic lights and left turn lanes that create backups in traffic. 

Unfortunately, accidents do occur in roundabouts, and are usually caused by drivers who don’t understand or fail to follow the rules. It’s not uncommon to see drivers stopping before entering, entering the wrong way, backing up and not yielding to vehicles in the roundabout.

How to Drive through a Roundabout

According to the Ministry of Transportation Ontario driver handbook, when approaching a roundabout, you should:

  • Look for signage to choose your exit
  • Slow down to the posted speed and watch for pedestrians

When entering, you should:

  • Look to your left for any vehicles just entering or vehicles already in the roundabout
  • Watch for a safe gap in traffic to enter
  • Enter counter-clockwise and never to your left 
  • Don’t stop unless to avoid a collision

Once in the roundabout, you should:

  • Keep to the right of the centre island and drive in a counter-clockwise direction 
  • Be cautious of vehicles who may enter without yielding
  • Avoid braking if you can, and don’t stop unless its necessary

When exiting, you should:

  • Use your right turn signal to indicate your exit and watch for pedestrians
  • If you miss your exit, go around again and then exit.

Still unsure how to travel thorough a roundabout? Check out this video from the City of Ottawa on How to Use a Roundabout.

The content in this article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as professional or expert advice.

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