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The Highway Code & Roundabouts – What are the rules?

Kicking off the first article in our mini-series on the UK Highway Code, we answer some common questions that we hear from learners about roundabouts.  

Roundabouts can be scary for young learners. Especially when negotiating larger, multi-lane roundabouts, learners can be left worrying about which lane they need to be in, and what to do when joining/leaving. 

Some common questions we hear on the road time and time again:

  • What lane do I need to be in?
  • When should I indicate to change lanes?
  • When should I indicate when leaving the roundabout? 
  • Do I need to go around the whole roundabout on a mini-roundabout?

Roundabouts are designed to keep the flow of traffic moving from all entrances in a clockwise direction. Therefore joining and leaving the roundabout shouldn’t disturb the flow of traffic. Drivers already on the roundabout generally have priority so shouldn’t have to slow down to let you on.

On 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.

Fear not, roundabouts aren’t as scary as they may seem. Your driving instructor will help you practise and ensure you’re well prepared for your test day. 

How should you approach a roundabout?

The Highway Code states that on approaching a roundabout you should take notice and act on all of 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. 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

Which lane do you need to be in on a roundabout?

Which lane you need to be in depends on which exit of the roundabout you’re planning to take. Whilst drivers may take differing approaches to navigate roundabouts, the wording in the Highway Code (rules 184-190) is actually very clear.  

If you’re planning to leave the roundabout at the first exit (unless signs or markings indicate otherwise)

  • Approach in the left-hand lane, indicating left 
  • Keeping to the left-hand side of the lane and still indicating left, follow the roundabout around and off at the first exit

If you’re planning to leave the roundabout at the last exit (unless signs or markings indicate otherwise)

  • Approach the roundabout in the right-hand lane, indicating right
  • 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.

If you’re planning to take any exit other than the first or last (unless signs or markings indicate otherwise)

  • Approach the roundabout in the appropriate lane
  • 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 to take. 

The Highway Code doesn’t strictly dictate which lane you have to use, advising the ‘appropriate’ lane for exits other than the first or last. This is because the appropriate lane differs depending on the roundabout. A key piece of information here is “unless signs or markings indicate otherwise”, as these take precedence over the above guidance. For example, the left lane could be for a left turn only, depending on the road markings. 

As a general rule, if you’re taking the first exit left, or going to follow the road ahead at the roundabout then use the left lane, and if your exit is to the right (past 12 o’clock), then use the right-hand lane. 

Mini roundabout rules 

Mini-roundabouts should be approached the same way as a normal roundabout, with a couple of key differences

  1. You should avoid completing a U-turn at a mini-roundabout, but also be cautious when joining a mini-roundabout that others may be doing this so that you can take the necessary precautions.
  2. You MUST pass around the roundabout, and not over it, except in cases where your vehicle is too large to do so. 

Answering our previous question – you do need to go around a mini-roundabout and must not go over it! 

Roundabouts may seem scary at first, but rest assured that they’ll get easier with practise. 

Every roundabout is slightly different so it’s best to practise all the roundabouts near your chosen test centre, particularly the tricky ones. Your driving instructor will know exactly which ones these are and will be able to help you out with the theoretical and practical aspects. 

Pay attention to other drivers’ signals. Be cautious of their indicators on roundabouts, as you cannot be certain which direction they may be intending to go from their indicators. Your RED Driving Instructor can talk you through navigating roundabouts and help build your confidence. 

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