Dealing with major roundabouts

In my last post, I dealt with mini roundabouts, and would now like to look at major roundabouts in this article, and hope by the end of reading, you would be better equipped and more confident in dealing with this type of junction.

As a London driving instructor I would normally teach mini roundabouts first before going onto the major ones (unless the client lives near a major roundabout), thus I would expect a degree of competency in dealing with the smaller roundabouts and an understanding of basic principles.
Major roundabouts are usually on larger roads, involve higher speeds and can have multiple lanes, with some being controlled by full or Part-time traffic lights. It is therfore important being confident with mini roundabouts as this will help a lot and make dealing with the bigger roundabouts much easier, so if you haven't already done so, I would advise you read my mini roundabouts post.

You need to be very familiar with reading road signs and know how to identify a major roundabout, as the first instruction you will be given on your test by the examiner is 'Follow the road ahead unless road signs indicate otherwise ....' thus you will not always be told 'at the roundabout follow the road ahead, it is the second exit'. The driving examiners instruction could 'be follow the signs for the A41 north'

Having said that, here is a tip you should remember. Whenever an examiner mentions exits with reference to a roundabout, he/she is usually referring to a major roundabout (not always, but most of the time this is usually the case, and the road signs should help confirm which type of junction you are approaching).

Second tip you should always signal left when coming off a major roundabout, and the correct time to signal is when you are at or just as you go past the last exit before the one you are leaving the roundabout at. So if you are leaving the roundabout at the 3rd exit, you will signal at the 2nd exit.

Depending on where the roundabout is, it could have more than one lane on approach, for example if you were on a 3 lane dual carriageway the roundabout would have 3 lanes, typically the left lane could be for turning left, the middle lane for following the road ahead, and the right for turning right. You need to however check road signs or markings as the left lane might also be for going ahead, and you be penalised for using the middle lane for following the road ahead, if the left lane was free and usable but you had automatically used the middle lane, because on the last 2 roundabouts the left lanes had been left turns only.

Before I go on to deal with how to approach, transverse and exit a roundabout, can I just mention that some roundabouts have traffic lights, and when these lights are working, they take priority, so do not stop for a car approaching from right, when the traffic lights you are approaching are green. If the lights are not working, then normal roundabout rules apply.

Due to the speeds that can be involved with major roundabouts (up to the national speed limit of 70mph), you need to vary your approach to suit the speed of the road, the higher the speed, the earlier you need to start thinking, the more observant you need to be, and your reactions will need to be faster.

The tips I gave in my mini roundabouts post on how to judge what other cars are doing and when there might be a gap equally apply here, though of course you might have shorter times to think in.

On approach to a major roundabout to turn left, using MSM you will be trying to adjust your speed, so that by the time you get to the roundabout, you have timed your signal right, you have stopped in a reasonable manner (no harsh breaking) if you need to give way to traffic from the right, or your speed is just right to make use of a gap in the traffic. This will not happen automatically, but will take a lot of practise, and I would suggest you iron out left turns at roundabouts before thinking of doing anything else at a major roundabout.

Note: You always signal left when approaching a roundabout to turn left, and you always use the left lane.

You might think that this is obvious, but my experience has shown that pupils can try to do strange things when driving.

Okay you are confident with turning left on approach to a roundabout, so you are now ready to deal with following the road ahead at a major roundabout.

As has been said before you need to be familiar with road signs and know how to identify a roundabout, as you might be driving along, the examiner might not say anything and all of a sudden there is a roundabout, you look at the examiner, and he is looking ahead, he does not say anything, so you remember his first instruction 'follow the road ahead', but you are in the left lane, which has an arrow indicating left only!
That was an extreme example, but you might have joined a dual carriageway a mile ago, and the examiner might have said 'I want you to follow the signs for the A20', and 300 yards back you had just passed a sign with a roundabout, and the A20 was the road ahead 2nd exit. 100 yards after that sign there was another sign with lanes and 2 arrows, one pointing left, and the other pointing ahead and right, so you did have enough instructions to know where to go!

Okay back to the same roundabout, but this time we noted both signs, so we have used MSM to move into the right hand lane, we have adjusted our speed to allow a single car approaching from the right go past, and we are now at the roundabout, we follow it round, and as we go past the first exit we check our mirrors, signal left, and take the exit as requested, checking our mirrors in the new road, and accelerating away from the junction. It is important not to hang around at juctions, as potential accident spots so we want to get away from there as quickly and safely as possible.

If in the example above you could use both the left and right lanes for going round the roundabout, you would approach in the left lane if it was free and you could make progress, staying in the left lane through out the roundabout.
If on the other hand there were 3 cars in the left lane, and the last one was indicating that it was turning left, using the correct procedure and changing into the right lane, and making progress through the roundabout on the right lane, would be a sure sign to the examiner that you are at test standard. You would of course move to the left lane once in the new road and it was safe to do so.

The Key features for following the road ahead at a major roundabout, use the appropriate lane on approach and through the roundabout, time your signal properly to let other road users know when you are exiting.

Practise on as many roundabouts as you can and as much as possible until you get everything correctly, you are then ready to deal with turning right at a major roundabout.

More Roundabout Driving Tips

Major roundabouts part 2.

Multi-Lane Roundabouts Video

Test in Automatic car.

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  1. Keep up the good work =]

  2. Anonymous8:20 am

    What about when the major route us shown on the sign as the 3rd exit and you want the 2nd of the 2 minor exits before it, should you position yourself in the lane marked left or the lane marked straight on?




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