We’ve all encountered them, and they seem to be growing in number. They’re popular in new housing developments and the City of Raleigh is considering adding them to Hillsborough Street. I’m talking about traffic circles, or round-abouts.
These are circular intersections into which you turn right and go in a circle until you arrive at the appropriate out-going turn. Round-abouts allow traffic to flow more smoothly than a tradition two- or four-stop intersection in that there is no intended stopping, but only yielding to the car in the traffic circle. It seems simple enough, but apparently, it’s not.
Within in the last week, I’ve driven through one round-about or another of various sizes at an average of once or twice a day. At least three times, I’ve witnessed a car stopping in the traffic circle to allow a waiting car to enter! This not only grinds the in-circle traffic to a halt, but creates anarchy as those awaiting try to enter all at once.
The NCDOT Driver’s Handbook has this to say about traffic circles:
A traffic circle is a specially designed intersection. All cars in a traffic circle travel to the right. You drive around the circle in a counter-clockwise direction until you come to the road or street where you want to turn. You leave the traffic circle by making a right turn. If there is more than one lane in the circle, be sure you are in the outside lane before you come to the place where you intend to exit the circle. Look and signal before you turn or change lanes. Never make a right turn from an inside lane. An entire traffic circle is an intersection. Vehicles already in the circle have the right-of-way.
Please note that last sentence again…that vehicles already in the circle have the right of way. That means you do not stop in the circle to let others in, they wait for you.
If we all follow the rules and common sense, round-abouts should be as simple to maneuver as operating a turn-signal. But let’s not start THAT discussion.