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How to Drive Through a Roundabout (Traffic Circle)

Driving in any foreign country can be quite a daunting experience. There are a host of distractions. Such as foreign language signs, odd signs and strange looking vehicles. Not to mention your probable complete lack of direction and your constant fear about wether or not your are breaking local driving laws or customs.

Driving in Denmark or any European country will most certainly involve roundabouts (sometimes called a 'traffic circle' or a 'rotary'). For any North American your first encounter with a roundabout can be a scary one. There are very few roundabouts in North America, and North Americans are used to the traffic lights telling them what to do at an intersection. Roundabouts involve the driver using their own judgement at an intersection.

Roundabouts have been around for a long time. The first roundabout was constructed in Paris around the Arc de Triomphe in 1901, and they use to be quite common in both Europe and North American. In the 1950's roundabouts in North America were replaced with conventional intersections. However, there has been a movement in Canada and the USA to go back to roundabouts. According to a study conducted in the USA, roundabouts were compared with the intersections they replaced, and the roundabouts had a much better safety record than the traditional intersections. Statistically they had 40% fewer vehicle collisions, 80% fewer injuries and 90% fewer serious injuries and fatalities.

Steps to Help you Safely Negotiate your way Through Roundabouts

  1. Get prepared early. Slow down as you approach the intersection. You're typically not required to stop. Have a look at the signs to determine where you want to go. In mutilane roundabouts you may be required to pick your lane prior to arriving at the roundabout.
  2. As you arrive at the roundabout wait for a gap where you can safely merge with the moving traffic into the roundabout. If an opening does not automatically present itself you will be required to stop, and then wait for a gap.
  3. Remember you must yield to all vehicles, and cyclists that are already in the circle. They have the right-of-way, as do you when you are actually in the roundabout.
  4. Once in the roundabout follow the flow of traffic until you are approaching your exit.
  5. Use your signals! When you are approaching your exit it is important to signal your intent to leave the roundabout.
  6. Exit the roundabout.


  • In countries where people drive on the right, the traffic flow around the central island of a roundabout is counterclockwise. In countries where people drive on the left, the traffic flow is clockwise.
  • Don't panic if you miss your exit out of the roundabout. You can always continue around the roundabout and exit the next time you come around.
  • In multilane roundabouts the inside lane is used as a 'go around lane'. You drive in it until you get close to your exit, and then you signal towards the exit. Then you merge to the outside lane. Be sure to check your blind spots.
  • As you are coming to the roundabout treat it as you would a normal intersection. Meaning, if you want to go left, signal your intent to go left. If you want to go right signal your intent to go right.
  • Watch for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Keep in mind that buses and large trucks may need extra room to make turns, and may take up more than one lane in the roundabout.

LastUpdate: 2015-04-16 11:26:12