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What to know about driving a large vehicle through a roundabout

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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.

Confusing?

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.

##RVDT1991

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Tom S
4 days 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
9 days 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!

Jeanne
13 days 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
14 days ago

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

Joel
14 days 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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2jJ_nqPLnk

kat
14 days 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
14 days 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
14 days 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
14 days 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
14 days 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
14 days 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 14 days ago by Andrea
Spike
14 days 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
14 days 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
14 days 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
14 days 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
14 days 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
14 days 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
14 days 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!

Jewel
14 days ago

If you ever need to practice, Sedona, Arizona and surrounding area has many. Headed to the Grand Canyon, Tusayan also has several that we drove our truck and 5th wheel through.

Taking the outside Lane and often both Lanes is necessary with the right curve of most. Obviously, the smaller the circle, the slower traffic must go so besides saving on real estate and paving, they want that slowdown. Doesn’t make for a fun time with large vehicles but it’s doable.

Glen Cowgill
14 days ago

In theory, traffic circles are great at eliminating 4 way stops and traffic lights. I lived for 6 years in Thailand where they know how to build these circles. Here in the US, we have some traffic circles that is hard to get a car through let alone a big vehicle.
There are several traffic circles near my home. One in particular is well designed with a radius you can get anything through it. Another circle on a busy street has a very tight radius where you will not get a large vehicle through without going on a sidewalk or pulling the trailer over the center part of the circle. The circle is very tight with only one lane. I am seeing more small circles being put in new developments to deter large truck traffic and to slow drivers.
Personally, I love traffic circles when drivers know how to use them. The US is not ready for traffic circles with some education.

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