Saturday, December 9, 2023


What to know about driving a large vehicle through a roundabout

Roundabouts (also known as traffic circles) are becoming more and more common where I live. You may see more of them as you travel the country in your RV, as well. Developed in the United Kingdom in the ’60s, modern-day traffic circles were designed to promote safer and smoother traffic flow. Since its inception, the U.S. and other countries worldwide have adopted this unique roadway concept. All sizes of vehicles can use roundabouts. However, maneuvering a large vehicle like your RV through a traffic circle can be a bit tricky. Perhaps a few tips would be helpful.

The basics

A roundabout is a uniquely designed circular intersection in which traffic flows in one direction around a central island. A gently sloping apron forms a ring around the center island. Beyond this apron, you’ll find lanes of traffic that approach, pass through, and continue beyond onto different roads.

In the U.S., drivers travel counterclockwise around a raised center island. Entering traffic yields the right of way to the traffic already in the roundabout. Longer vehicles (like an RV) must often utilize the apron area in order to maneuver safely through the traffic circle. And that’s perfectly legal.

Why roundabouts?

  • Designed for safety, roundabouts have reduced the frequency and severity of traffic accidents. This is partly because drivers must slow down as they approach, yield, and pass through the traffic circle.
  • Roundabout traffic exits from just one direction, making it easier for pedestrians to safely cross the intersection.
  • Roundabouts also more effectively keep heavy traffic moving than stop lights or stop signs.
  • There is less idling time for gas-powered vehicles producing less harmful emissions.
  • The slower vehicle speeds through the roundabouts help to reduce noise.


Yes, the traffic circle or roundabout may seem a bit confusing at first, but with practice, you can feel confident even when driving your big rig through the circle.

Here’s a video that explains the correct driving procedure for large vehicles in roundabouts.


Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.



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Don (@guest_261298)
24 days ago

For some reason, at least in WA state, people completely forget to do the courteous thing and use their signal, to indicate to drivers entering the circle, that they are going to exit. Some drivers here use their turn signals at regular intersections (stoplight/stopsign) but for some reason don’t use them in a circle. Of course, maybe all the auto parts stores are out of blinker fluid….

Bob P (@guest_261291)
24 days ago

When I was driving trucks I came upon a roundabout on a 2 lane road with no truck provision, I had my right steer tire well into the shoulder grass and my left side trailer tires trying to climb into the middle island. It did well for cars but not for trucks going into the industrial park, a lot of planning went into that. I don’t remember what town in Indiana it was in, luckily it was dry conditions or I would’ve made a mess of their idea to promote traffic flow. Going into the industrial park and out I never saw another vehicle, busy intersection???

JCB2 (@guest_261245)
25 days ago

Good video, Gail.
FYI-We’ve had “traffic circles” in New Jersey at least as far back as the 1940s. Most have been removed where traffic has become too heavy in favor of “cloverleafs” or traffic light intersections.
But traffic circles work very well unless heavy traffic bogs them down causing accidents and backups.

Tom S (@guest_211977)
1 year ago

We have single lane roundabout they put in a few years ago. It gets a lot of gravel semi’s going south then east, or the opposite. I talked to the on-site engineer when it was put in questioning him about it, said it wouldn’t be damaged since the cement was 16 inches thick. We noticed the other day some damage to the center. The real problem is people are confused when they get to one.

Linda (@guest_211388)
1 year ago

We’ve encountered cars that want to pass us on the left when we are in a roundabout because they are impatient and rude! We take up both lanes because this has happened to us multiple times across the country. We are full timers that travel 20,000 – 25,000 miles per year. People do NOT know to wait their turn if someone is in the roundabout!

Don (@guest_261299)
24 days ago
Reply to  Linda

Some people just have to live up to their highest level of self-importance…

Jeanne (@guest_211002)
1 year ago

Some are not well labeled. we go through one in Nebraska that has 5 options for exiting. 3 are on the same side. We always seem to hit it in the dark and have exited on the wrong street more than once.

Gary G (@guest_210990)
1 year ago

Roundabouts are da*n dangerous. Folks do not slow down and nobody knows where they are going.

Joel (@guest_210989)
1 year ago

So now that folks are expressing their dislike for the roundabout wait until they meet the Diverging Diamond interchange’s that are popping up all over the country. Confusing, because you get to drive on the left side of the street, and it is new and unfamiliar, it is quite easy to use. Just follow the signs and take it easy. Florida is putting in a lot of these on the I-75 and I-95 corridors. Here is the Florida DOT’s explanation of how they work.

JCB2 (@guest_261251)
25 days ago
Reply to  Joel

Thanks, Joel. I’ve never seen that before. Now I understand it.

Don (@guest_261300)
24 days ago
Reply to  Joel

One of these just got put in on US95 in north ID. Very confusing.

kat (@guest_210976)
1 year ago

Roundabouts are great . . . if! Where I’m from (northern lower peninsula of Michigan) roundabouts are becoming all the rage. However the county is not doing their due diligence. The “roundabouts” they are creating are small. If there isn’t enough space to put in a proper one, quit doing it. One lane roundabouts are difficult to maneuver, and those plowing the roads do not care for them too much either. Seeing roundabouts in Europe and then seeing what they are building in Michigan is hilarious.

MrDisaster (@guest_210969)
1 year ago

Ah…traffic circles, roundabouts, rotarys, whatever they are called in your area are going to be prominent in our future. While they are more expensive to install there is little maintanence required. Drivers need to slow down when approaching, yield to cars in the circle, use your signals, take it slow and stay in your lane. Most circles have a low curb on the inside designed to allow the rear wheels on large vehicles to make the turn. Yes they are a challenge but doable. In Eastern Washington DOT added a sign to warn drivers not to drive next to large vehicles (as they tend to cross into both lanes).

Bob Packer (@guest_210967)
1 year ago

I remember traffic circles in Massachusetts when I was stationed there in 1955. There is a 6 lane traffic circle around the Arc of Triumph in Paris. I don’t know when the traffic circle here in Tulsa was built.

Neal Davis (@guest_210940)
1 year ago

Our RV GPS does not like roundabouts. We routinely pass through one if we travel south or west from our sticks-and-bricks. We have had no trouble passing through that particular roundabout towing our Jeep Grand Cherokee. Despite repeated successful passages through the roundabout, our GPS still attempts to route us away from it. We just ignore it until it adjusts (after we’ve passed through).

Brad (@guest_210932)
1 year ago

Those that I have encountered would be safer if they were a bit larger. The tight turn required can be challenging for longer motorhomes. Those in other countries like Japan are much easier to navigate as they are quite a bit larger.

Andrea (@guest_210924)
1 year ago

Still not a fan of roundabouts. It’s helpful if they’re well marked far enough ahead to be useful. The one at the Rtes 89 and 64 to Grand Canyon East Entrance isn’t well marked as to which lane does what, when we were in it a couple of months ago, we had an extremely close call, and have had others not quite as close, in that same roundabout.
When we still had our popup, we encountered two so close together in Colorado that they were basically a figure 8, that was interesting.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrea
Spike (@guest_210920)
1 year ago

Joel is correct about signaling intentions.

When I was in Australia in the 90’s on business I was getting honked at in roundabouts. Asked someone at work what I was doing wrong. She asked if I was signaling my exit and I answered “no.” She told me I was making people yield that didn’t need to and disrupting flow in the circle and other drivers were letting me know!

Signal your intent to leave the circle!

In my area they are installing them all over, yet how to use them is still not part of drivers education here.

Dennis (@guest_210952)
1 year ago
Reply to  Spike

Even signaling can cause confusion to those waiting. And what is 2 extra seconds to wait to see if a vehicle will turn or not? Many are just in too much of a hurry and are impatient. It isn’t too difficult to tell which exit a vehicle is taking if you just be patient. No need to try to guess if the signal is for your exit lane or the next. More frustrating are those who if they see a vehicle on the opposite side of the round about and they have plenty of time to get into the circle, they wait until absolutely no cars are in the round about. That is more of a waste than watching for signals.

Bob Wallace (@guest_210908)
1 year ago

If you want real practice with an RV in a roundabout, come to Carmel, IN. We have over 140 at about $3mil/each all built with borrowed money and no 2 the same-lol. Last I read, we had the most of any city in the US. While the severity of accidents has lessened, the incidence % of them has not, nor has the number of fatalities eased (vs a 4 way/signal intersection), and they still back up at rush hour. We don’t even try to leave our neighborhood during rush hour as it is just a mile long line of cars!

Joel (@guest_210904)
1 year ago

If you struggle driving around a circle perhaps you should downsize. Also, how many people do you see who actually signal their intention?

Larry Lee (@guest_210901)
1 year ago

Traffic circles are a major improvement over stop signs and traffic signals. Fewer collisions because you only have to watch for traffic to your left. Fewer emissions and frustrations because it functions as a yield sign instead of a stop sign. Less noise because you rarely have to come to a complete stop and start up again. I don’t understand why people would prefer to have a four-way stop instead of a traffic circle

Bob M (@guest_210893)
1 year ago

I hate roundabout’s and Why Roundabouts is just an excuse to try and justify them. In Pa when going thru roundabouts you also have to watch you don’t hit the signs they put up. They built a couple by the Avoca airport, Pa. Drivers going thru them ended up on Interstate 81 going to Scranton. They had to paint airplanes on the road so people would get to the airport. They built some in Hanover Twp/Naticoke area are terrible and I wouldn’t drive thru with my travel trailer. I won’t even drive my pickup thru them again.

Bob p (@guest_210886)
1 year ago

As what Mr Cowgill said I’ve been through roundabouts in Ohio that were only one lane with a 53’ semi trailer and street signs on the corner, a test of your driving skill!

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