Why is there a circle in the middle of the road?
Residential traffic circles are designed to increase safety and to slow down traffic in residential areas (where there may be children, dogs, people walking, bikes, skate boarders, cars backing out of driveways, and other hazards) without necessarily forcing traffic to completely stop (as required at 2-way stops and 4-way stops).
– It is generally impossible to have a head-on collision in these intersections
– It is also generally impossible to have a “T-bone” collision
So, how do you navigate the residential traffic circle?
1. Slow down as you approach the circle to no more than 20 km/hr, in case you need to yield, and to maintain a reasonable speed in relation to the amount of steering you will be doing.
2. Scan for traffic straight ahead, left, and right
3. Yield to any traffic already in the circle. This means yield to an oncoming left-turning vehicle if it is already in the circle before you; yield to the vehicle on the left if it is has entered the circle before you, and also yield to the right if you arrive at the same time as another vehicle.
– Always go around the circle to the right.
How to signal in the traffic circle
Treat this intersection exactly as you would for any other intersection! It’s very simple:
If you are going straight, do not signal.
You’re not turning, you are simply steering around the traffic circle. If you signal right, people think you are turning right; and that could be potentially dangerous if a driver assumes you’re turning and may pull out in front of you.
If you are turning right, signal right before the traffic circle.
If you are turning left, signal left before the traffic circle.
This is particularly important in the case where there’s an oncoming vehicle approaching after you’ve already entered the circle. If you have your left signal on, the driver should yield to you (I said they should yield, as in, they are supposed to; I’m not guaranteeing that that is actually going to happen so use caution), and it should be obvious where you are going. If you don’t have a signal, or you signal too late, the driver may assume you’re going straight and might pull in front of you.
Always be prepared in the case where other drivers may not yield. Some drivers are confused at these intersections.
What about emergency vehicles in traffic circles?
Always avoid blocking a traffic circle when there is an emergency vehicle approaching. Stop before entering the circle or exit and then stop to allow the vehicle to pass.