Why Can’t Americans Navigate a Roundabout?

Posted by: David Hurth  /  Category: Commentary, Porsche

Brasov landscape

The roundabout (also known as a traffic circle) is a wonderful invention. It controls traffic without forcing anybody to come to a full stop if there is no traffic blocking their way. They are more efficient than a stop sign (and sometimes a stop light), but for some reason we Americans (by Americans I am referring to people from the United States of America) just can’t seem to navigate them correctly
(at least many of us).

While I was born in the United States I lived in New Zealand for a while when I was younger. New Zealand is a beautiful country and one that has many roundabouts on the roads. People in New Zealand appear to know the proper way to navigate a roundabout. Simply put you Yield to any oncoming traffic before entering the roundabout and then once in it you drive around it until you get to your exit all without stopping in the middle of the roundabout.

NonUK_Roundabout_8_Cars

I now live on California’s Central Coast another very beautiful area and one that is great for driving. In fact I drive on the famous Highway 1 everyday as it is just a few minutes from my house. The only problem to getting to Highway one is that I have to go through a roundabout to get to the Highway 1 on-ramp. The roundabout can get pretty busy at times as the area gets a lot of tourism.

Part of the problem is that most Americans rarely drive on a roundabout and are often not taught about them in traffic schools. This is quite different than other countries that have many more roundabouts. This fact causes many traffic nightmares, including the below.

  • People stopping in the middle of the roundabout thinking they need to stop to allow others to enter the roundabout.
  • People coming to a complete stop to enter the roundabout when there is no traffic in the roundabout./li>
  • People driving on the sidewalk around the roundabout (one should never drive on the sidewalk even when out of a roundabout).
  • People driving in multiple lanes in the roundabout (by this I mean their car is in the middle of two lanes).

I have personally seen all of the above issues happen multiple times. Any one of these could cause an accident and they have in the past. Roundabouts are great when driven correctly, but can be very dangerous if people do not drive them as they were designed.

I personally think that here in the United States we should better educate people on how to drive on a roundabout in driving school. Even if someone is not likely to drive in one anytime soon they should at least know how to drive in a roundabout when they get out of driving school. Beyond this, if we put more roundabouts in more places in the United States then people will drive in roundabouts much better due to using them more often.

So, if you drive in a roundabout please remember to do the following:

  • Do NOT stop to allow merging traffic in the roundabout, unless it is to avoid an accident.
  • Yield to oncoming traffic when about to enter a roundabout, but don’t come to a complete stop unless you can’t enter the roundabout safely.
  • Stay on the road (and the sidewalk is not part of the road).
  • Stay in your lane, unless you are changing lanes to exit the roundabout.

We Americans are great at many things, but for some reason many of us just can’t drive in a roundabout. Follow the above steps and you will navigate a roundabout much safer and keep from hitting anybody’s car. After all, I don’t want you to hit my Porsche the next time I go around a roundabout.

Let us know of your experience with roundabouts (or thoughts about them) in the comments below.

Image Sources: Brasov Picture – Nicu Farcas, Animated GIF – Romanm

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