Some might claim the excuse of having obtained their license before they were invented, and I recognize that very little is done in the most popular media to train and raise awareness among drivers, but the truth is that we have no excuse, because safety should matter to all of us, and also ignorance does not exempt from compliance with regulations and laws.
The basic idea of roundabouts is to increase traffic flow by minimizing traffic jams. To achieve this, ideally, most vehicles should be able to enter the roundabout without stopping, slowing down and making a simple "give way", or failing that, stopping for as little time as possible.
So it is easy to come to the conclusion that for roundabouts to work well - and safely - it is vital that the vehicles already on the roundabout do so correctly, as this facilitates access to the roundabout for the rest of the traffic, and of course, at a reasonably slow speed, and using the indicators... and this is where we fail miserably.
What does the DGT (Dirección General de Tráfico) say?
On the official website of the DGT you can download the graph that illustrates this article, which shows the most common correct and incorrect behaviours. You will see that the roundabout in the graphic has three lanes, but for practical purposes, the two inner lanes (B and C) have a similar consideration. For this article, I have modified the DGT graphic by creating new, simpler graphics, which will allow me to explain in more detail such an important subject.
The most typical mistake: The chicane
Most of the time -and for logical reasons-, we cross roundabouts with the intention of going straight ahead, and as we are always in a hurry, our subconscious suggests that we should follow them as if they were a chicane -to lose as little time as possible-, and if there is traffic in the right lane, and queuing is foolish, then we enter from the left lane... wrong, very wrong!
The trajectory of car D -orange- is totally incorrect, -and also the possible variations in yellow-, and if before reaching the roundabout, we intend to go straight on -that is, leaving by the second exit of the roundabout-, the only correct trajectory is the one of car A -blue-, which consists of entering by the right lane, going through the roundabout by the outside lane, and leaving also by the right lane.
Why are the orange and yellow trajectories incorrect? It's very simple: by following these routes, we reduce our speed very little and we use all lanes, making it difficult for other traffic to enter the roundabout and turning it into a kind of give-way junction, where the most daring and aggressive driver has the right of way.
In the image we can see how car A -blue-, coming out of the first or second exit, enters the roundabout in its right lane, traces the roundabout in the outside lane and exits in the right lane, and of course, using the turn signal to indicate that they are leaving the roundabout.
Car B -green-, enters the roundabout in the left lane, tracing the roundabout in the inside lane, but -very important-, changes to the outside lane before taking the exit, so that when it exits the roundabout, it does so from the outside lane.
The trajectories of car C -red- are incorrect, because the car exits the roundabout from the inside lanes -it should always exit from the outside lane-. As for car E -fuchsia-, it also exits the roundabout from an inside lane, which is not correct.
What happens in case of an accident?
- If a car driving in an inside lane C -red- intercepts the trajectory of another car driving in an outside lane B -green- or A -blue- and an accident occurs, the red car will always be at fault.
And what should the red car do if it wants to leave the roundabout and there are cars on its right? Very easy: go around the roundabout again.
- If at the moment of exiting, car D -orange- and car B -green- collide, car D will be at fault, because it is making an incorrect manoeuvre when exiting the roundabout from an inside lane.
To sum up:
- If we are going to take the first exit, or intend to cross the roundabout by taking the second exit, we will always enter the roundabout from the right lane, and drive around the roundabout in its outside lane.
- Only enter a roundabout in the left lane if you intend to turn left, i.e. if you are going to take the third or fourth exit from the roundabout.
- Only use the inside lanes of the roundabout if you are taking the third or fourth exit.
- Always use your turn signal to indicate that you are leaving the roundabout.
- If we intend to change to an outside lane, and this is occupied, we will respect the preference of the other vehicle, and if necessary, we will go around the roundabout again until we can change to the outside lane.
- When turning right to leave the roundabout, take the right lane if it is free.
- It is not a rule, but it is common sense to drive around roundabouts at a relatively slow speed, so as to make it easier for other drivers to enter the roundabout.
- Of course, in our country there are many badly designed roundabouts, or so small, that it is almost impossible to comply with the regulations - in some, we are even forced to enter them in the left lane if we want to continue straight ahead - but keep in mind that in case of an accident, the excuse that "this roundabout is too narrow" won't be valid.
Well, I am aware that this article is not going to reach everyone, but I hope I have done my bit in this field, and if you have found it interesting or that it can be of help, I would be very grateful if you could do your bit by forwarding it to your friends.