Blog Learn How To Use A Roundabout

Jul 22, 2020

A Guide To Roundabout Rules In Ontario

roundabout with green grass surronding it

Have you noticed more roundabouts popping up in your city? They’ve become a popular road feature to reduce accidents. Not sure about roundabout rules? Need to freshen up on your knowledge about how to drive in roundabouts? Take some time to familiarize yourself with these tips for driving through roundabouts in Ontario.

What Is A Roundabout?

Roundabouts are a circular intersections where two or more roads meet. Traffic circulates through roundabouts counter-clockwise around a central island. Roundabouts are designed to make intersections more efficient and safer for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

Municipalities are choosing roundabouts over traditional stop lights because they are less expensive to operate (no installation and maintenance of signal lights) and cost less to pave. Roundabouts can have anywhere from one to several lanes, depending on how much traffic circulates in the area.

Most importantly, studies show roundabouts have fewer conflict points which can lower the chances for serious accidents. They prevent costly accidents and injuries which should help with lower car insurance in Ontario.

How To Use A Roundabout In Ontario

When you approach a roundabout, here is what you should do :

  • Slow down and prepare to yield to any pedestrians, cyclists and cars.
  • Observe for signs that will direct you to your exit.
  • Stop if there are vehicles inside the roundabout.
  • Use the correct lane for your exit.
  • Enter when there is a safe gap in the roundabout.
  • Avoid changing lanes in a roundabout, and do not stop (unless you are avoiding a collision).
  • Use your right turn signal as you prepare to exit.

Traffic Circle Vs Roundabout – What Is The Difference?

A traffic circle is much larger than a roundabout. With traffic circles, each entry and exit point becomes a T-intersection that can require a full stop at a set of lights. Instead of a T-intersection, roundabouts have merge lanes that require you to yield to traffic and enter once it is safe.

What Lane Do I Choose In A Roundabout?

Once you have decided what exit to take, here are some tips on which lane to drive in.

  • Turning Right : If you are making the first exit, enter from the right lane. Have your right signal on. Travel in the outer lane of the roundabout and exit directly from the lane.
  • Going Straight : If you are driving straight through the roundabout, enter from the left or right lane. Exit directly from that lane when you get to the exit.
  • Turning Left : If you are turning left (making the last exit on the roundabout), enter in the left lane. Continue to travel in the inner lane of the roundabout and exit directly from the inner lane.

How Safe Are Roundabouts?

Roundabouts are safer than traditional stoplight intersections. Studies show that there is approximately 32 conflict points at an intersection versus eight in a roundabout. The study in 2000 found roundabouts reduced the number of collisions by 35%, lowered the number of injuries by 76%, and fatalities by 90%.

The chance of serious injury decreases with roundabouts. Since cars are driving slower, drivers have more time to react. When accidents do happen, they are minor compared to traffic light intersections.

The central island is designed to prevent drivers from seeing the headlights of oncoming vehicles at night. It also gives drivers an indication that there is an obstruction in the roadway and that they can’t drive straight through.

How Do Roundabouts Work?

Tips For Driving Safely Through A Roundabout

Feel confident the next time you approach a roundabout with these tips.

  • As you approach the roundabout, note the sign indicating which lane you need to take for each exit.
  • Always look for oncoming traffic, pedestrians and cyclists who you will yield to.
  • Only enter the roundabout when all lanes of oncoming traffic are clear. Stay in your lane once you’ve entered.
  • Use your signal to indicate you are leaving the roundabout.

Do I Yield To Emergency Vehicles In A Roundabout?

If you are driving in a roundabout and an emergency vehicle approaches, exit at your intended exit and proceed beyond the traffic island before pulling over. If you haven’t entered the roundabout, pull over to the right and wait until the emergency vehicle has passed before entering.

Can Cyclists And Pedestrians Use A Roundabout?

Yes. Pedestrians should wait for a gap in traffic before crossing. Never walk through a roundabout or the central island.

Cyclists can dismount and walk their bike through the crosswalks, similar to a pedestrian. If you are an experienced cyclist, you can merge into the vehicle lane and exit when your exit lane appears. As a driver, it is your duty to yield to pedestrians and cyclists at a roundabout to prevent an accident, which can impact your car insurance quotes.

Do I Need To Signal In A Roundabout?

Roundabouts are similar to intersections. You should always signal in the direction you plan on taking. Here are some directional tips for signalling in a roundabout.

  • If you are turning right, leave your right signal on.
  • If you are taking the second exit, use your signal when approaching the exit.
  • If you are taking the third exit, leave your left signal on until your exit arrives and then use your right signal.

What Are Common Roundabout Signs?

roundabout ahead sign Roundabout ahead, be alert and slow down.

yield sign roundabout ahead When driving toward a roundabout yield to all traffic and pedestrians. This is a reminder you may have to stop.

keep right sign Keep to the right.

roundabout choose lane sign There are two entry lanes to the roundabout. Choose the appropriate lane for your destination.

roundabout intersections sign Intersections for the roundabout. This sign will help you choose your exit.

roundabout exit sign Each exit will have a sign to identify the exit. Signal when you are leaving the roundabout.

one direction sign Traffic only flows in one direction (counter-clockwise) in a roundabout.

right lane ends sign The right lane will end. Be mindful of merging traffic.

Roundabouts Have A Positive Impact On The Environment

On a greener note, roundabouts have a positive impact on the environment. They cut vehicle emissions and fuel consumption usage down because there is less idling at intersections. Vehicles slowly drive through roundabouts which minimizes the highway feeling of roads in suburban and urban areas. There is also an opportunity for municipalities to landscape the central island.

Roundabout FAQs

Are you seeing more roundabouts in your municipality? Check out these common questions about roundabouts.

Drivers and cyclists who are already using the roundabout have the right-of-way. Vehicles entering the roundabout must always yield and wait for a safe gap to enter.

Common roundabout collisions include :

  • Rear-end : Generally at the entrance to a roundabout.
  • Entering : When a vehicle enters the roundabout and fails to yield to a vehicle driving in the roundabout.
  • Turning : Caused by drivers using the incorrect lane (turning left from a right lane, for example).

You should always signal when you are going to exit the roundabout. Here's how to do it correctly :

  • If you are turning right, leave your right signal on.
  • If you are taking the second exit, use your signal when approaching the exit.
  • If you are taking the third exit, leave your left signal on until you exit and then use your right signal to exit.

If you miss your exit while driving through a roundabout, you can circle around one more time. Continuously driving around the roundabout more than twice can be considered careless driving. If you are lost, make a safe exit and pull over when it’s safe to find your bearings.

Roundabouts are safer than traditional intersections. Lower speeds and fewer points of conflict lower the number of serious accidents. Roundabouts allow for a higher volume of traffic to flow through, which helps lower the amount of stops and delays. Cars will idle less in roundabouts, reducing fuel consumption and improving air quality.

Reducing your speed as you approach a roundabout will give you time to read the sign and choose the correct lane. Look for signs and road markings to help decide what exit and lane to take. Never change lanes in a roundabout.

The amount of traffic and travel speed determines the size of a roundabout. They need to be large enough for buses and large trucks but also small enough that drivers need to slow down to go around them.

A cyclist can dismount their bike and cross when there is space at the crosswalk. Experienced cyclists can ride through as if they were driving a car. You can merge into the lane before the bike lane ends. Ride in the centre of your lane, not hugging the curb. Use hand signals when you are exiting. Never cross the central island of a roundabout.

Accidents can still happen, even when you drive carefully and follow the rules. Always take time to familiarize yourself with driving tips in your municipality.