Believe this or not here are instructors out there that will only teach learners just enough to get through the driving test, thus, effectively short changing them. But what people don’t realise is that teaching roundabouts is not covered on the test that driving instructors have to pass to actually become an instructor.
The final test they have to pass is a test of their ability to teach, and roundabouts are not on this test, so believe it or not there are driving instructor training establishments that don’t teach new instructors how to teach roundabouts, so they too are being short changed and are left to work this out for themselves.
Now it should be straight forward.
A roundabout is an evolution of the simple crossroads. In effect it is just a cross roads with an island in the middle. So if you approaching a cross roads with 2 lanes and you wanted to turn left, unless the road markings tell you otherwise you would signal left on the approach and choose the left lane, If you were going ahead you would choose the left lane and not signal on the approach. If you were turning right you would approach in the right lane and signal right.
It is more or less the same when approaching a roundabout, you will signal left for left, nothing for straight on and right for right, simple.
However, once you are on the roundabout, well not on it, but going around it you treat it as a one-way street and just tell people when you are going to turn off by signalling left just after the last exit you are not taking.
The challenge comes with multi-lane or gyroscopic roundabouts; you do have to read the road markings and signs. A gyroscopic Roundabout should guide you off by the use of the road markings, simply stay in the correct lane for your exit and the road markings will move over as you get nearer to your exit; however you still need to look for the signs and road markings and of course use your common sense.
So to see the road markings you will need to keep space between you and the vehicle in front. If you are too close then you will not have time to see and read the markings effectively.
If you are negotiating a multi exit roundabout where they have more than four exits or if the four exits don’t form a crossroads, then this is a rule of thumb you can use, the clock face rule, tread the approach to the roundabout as 6. The first exit will be treated as left; any exits after 12 noon will be treated as right turn. For example if it was a clock face you would approach from 6 o clock, 12 o clock will be opposite and after 12 noon is a right turn, 12 noon is treated as straight on and any exists between 12 noon and the first exit will be treated as going ahead.
What overrides this rule are the road markings and signs, always follow the advice of the road markings and signs.
Finally let’s look at mini roundabouts? A mini-roundabout usually has a blue circular sign with 3 white arrows telling you that you MUST drive around it. It is the same sort of sign that you see on a bollard, you know the blue one with the white arrow telling you to pass on the left or right. Not many drivers will ignore this sign and pass on the wrong side, but there are many drivers who will over the top of the mini roundabout without a second thought.
However, both signs have the same legal standing they are both giving orders and it is an offence to ignore the sign, on a mini roundabout the Highway Code states “all vehicles must pass around the central markings. The exception is large vehicles that are physically unable to drive around the central markings; they are allowed to use the space as they need to. , As this rule is a must in the Highway Code it carries a penalty of 3 points and a fine, all blue signs give orders. Mini roundabouts are used to give everyone a fair chance of getting out of the junction; also they are a form of traffic calming. So please respect them.
I once asked a driver, fully qualified one, who had been driving for 30+ years, what they had just got from the training session they had just been on. They said: “This looking forward thing is a good one”. I am sure they meant looking in the far distance is a good thing, well I hope that’s what they meant anyway.
Hopefully, we won’t get to this level of me first, as seen in the picture.
Anyway, when it comes to driving it seems we don’t like queuing. We see drivers on a daily basis trying to get that elusive one car ahead by swopping lanes, pushing in at the front of the queue and even trying not to allow anyone else in the queue.
There is an easy way of stopping people pushing in when we are queuing, especially when two lanes are going into one. Really simple, just let them in, how can they possibly push in if you are allowing them, it simply puts you in charge. It is just like holding the door open for someone; it is a choice to let them go first, so why not make this choice on the road?
But there are people out there who don’t want others to have the advantage on them and they will see someone getting in front of them as taking the advantage, not just someone who is just making a journey.
In the situation of two lanes going into one, some drivers will block two lanes to stop other people getting past them, therefore effectively blocking the carriageway. Now this is where it can go wrong. It is actually an offence to block the public highway so they can in fact be prosecuted for this.
On the other hand, how many of us have got into the wrong lane or noticed that the lane we are in is closing shortly? And we will have to swap lanes; we can then find that other drivers won’t let us in because they are assuming we have done it on purpose.
There are also the people who are driving somewhere on a personal or medical emergency and are desperate to get somewhere quickly, but we conveniently forget about these people and just assume they are pushing in on purpose as well or that they are just horrible people.
Now let’s do something positive and look for a solution. Hold on the solution is already in the Highway Code, it is Rule 134. We call this zip-merging; where everyone queues in both lanes and at the point of where one lane closes then each driver takes a turn, for example each driver will allow one car in front hence the term zip-merging.
Let’s look at the difference in the two ways: One way is to all get in a queue as soon as we are warned one of the lanes is closing. This can cause the queue stretch for miles from the point of closure, so far back it could affect junctions or roundabouts , so everyone is queuing in one lane at least one mile back or at the very least at the first sign stating the lane is going to close. Now there will be drivers who are a further mile back that won’t even know the lane is closing as they have not seen the sign, so will continue until they realise they have to get over, who is going to let them in?
So now the queue could be more than two miles long that will mean there are two miles of empty road in the other lane of wasted space. This traffic jam could, in effect, block junctions and roundabouts, causing increase congestion on the surrounding roads.
If we all zip merge this would free all this wasted space up, we would end up with two queues of one mile each, using the road space effectively with each driver taking turns to move in at the point the lanes merge into one. This means that both queues would continue to move and the traffic would clear more quickly, and the surrounding roads would be less affected. However this can still be spoilt by the lane hopper. They see some sort of advantage if moving from lane to lane as they may perceive one lane is moving faster than the other, realistically they might even get two cars ahead instead of the usual one.
So please remember try to zip-merge and let people in if they want to, it puts you in charge, use the road space wisely.