How To Master Roundabouts

Last Updated: 10/04/2021

Roundabouts can scare new and not so new drivers because everything seems to be moving so quickly and you have to keep your wits about you.

Understanding how they work and what the correct procedure for negotiating them is essential for driving safety and enjoyment.

More than likely you will have to demonstrate your ability to safely move around roundabouts on your driving test route.

Your examiner may direct you to a particularly challenging roundabout in your locality.

Roundabouts come in mini or maxi sizes so you could be asked to simply drive around a mini roundabout or drive around one which has multi lanes and exits.

There is a good chance that roundabouts are on the driving test routes for your driving test centre.

The driving test often involves taking the most challenging roundabouts in your area.

These can be from small mini roundabouts to big multi-lane roundabouts.

What You Will Learn

To help get you prepared for tackling roundabouts, we’ve put together this driving guide.

It’s packed full of information and guidance that you will need and that should allow you to execute this manoeuvre with confidence.

  • Step-By-Step Guide
  • Video Demonstration
  • Hints & Tips
  • Useful Information
  • Final Thoughts
  • Further Resources

Step-By-Step Guide

There are two main types of roundabouts.

Each roundabout has a red triangle warning sign as you approach it to let you know that it is coming up.

A simple roundabout can consist of just a single lane of traffic entering and exiting it.

In built up areas with heavy traffic, a roundabout can consist of many lanes entering and exiting at a quick pace.

The mini roundabout is preceded by a blue circle with right pointing white arrows and are mostly present in residential areas.

The most important rule concerning roundabouts of whatever size in the UK is that as you approach, you MUST give way to traffic already on the roundabout from the right.

Open & Closed Roundabouts:

Sometimes it can be difficult to see traffic approaching from the right because of obstacles being in the way, for example high hedges and fences.

This will require you to stop at the junction line so you can see what is going on.

These closed roundabouts are usually found in residential areas.

By contrast, an open roundabout provides very clear visibility and you can usually drive on to it without stopping, providing there is no immediate traffic on the roundabout or entering it from the right.

‘Mirror, Signal, Position, Speed and Look’ (a.k.a ‘MSPSL’) are applicable every time you enter a roundabout and the examiner will be watching to see that you use this routine.

MSPSL is essential for entering roundabouts.

Rules For Roundabouts:

There are set rules for procedure when turning left, going straight on and turning right at a roundabout.

The following observations must be constantly altered as you approach a roundabout.

  • As well as looking to your right, you must also keep looking ahead so you know which lane you are aiming for.
  • You must use your interior mirror and wing mirrors to assist you.
  • You must make an initial judgement as to the roundabout i.e. whether it is an open or closed one.
  • If in doubt, slow right down and be prepared to stop if necessary.

Turning Left:

Your driving instructor will tell you which direction to go or he may not give you any directions and expect you to use the appropriate signals and lanes.

  • Check your interior mirror, then your left wing mirror and signal to the left. Stay in the outside left lane for the whole time you are on the roundabout prior to exiting.  Approach the roundabout according to whether it is open or closed, keeping your brake and clutch covered.
  • Give way to traffic approaching from the right on the roundabout and if you need to stop, use your clutch to avoid coasting. If the roundabout is clearly visible continue round in 2nd gear in the outside left lane.
  • As you exit the roundabout, cancel your signal.

Going Straight On:

  • Check your interior mirror, then your left wing mirror and signal to the left. Stay in the outside left lane for the whole time you are on the roundabout prior to exiting.  Approach the roundabout according to whether it is open or closed, keeping your brake and clutch covered.
  • Give way to traffic approaching from the right on the roundabout and if you need to stop, use your clutch to avoid coasting. If the roundabout is clearly visible continue round in 2nd gear in the outside left lane.
  • After you have passed the 1st exit, check your interior mirror, then your left wing mirror and signal to the left. As soon as you have exited the roundabout, make sure that you cancel your signal.

Turning Right:

  • To turn right at a roundabout, you must approach it in the right lane. You should only ever use an alternative lane if you are directed to by road markings or signs to do so.
  • As you approach the roundabout check your interior mirror, right wing mirror and signal to the right. As usual, you must check to see if the roundabout is a closed or open one and go at an appropriate speed according to your visibility.  If in doubt, slow right down and stop if necessary.
  • When all seems clear, continue in the right hand lane until you pass the 2nd exit. At this point, look into the interior mirror, then left wing mirror and then give a left signal.
  • Moving over to the left lane, signal first and check your left blind spot. Cancel your signal as you exit the roundabout.
  • You will be expected to show your examiner on the test that you are checking your mirrors and signalling at all times.

Exiting A Roundabout:

Many learner drivers are unaware that a test failure can result from not cancelling the indicator signal after exiting a roundabout.

This is because other road users may be confused if your signal continues, particularly as pedestrian crossings are often positioned just outside of roundabouts.

Roundabouts & The Driving Test:

The following tips will be useful for driving around roundabouts when you take your test.

  • Look ahead to locate a roundabout so that you are well prepared
  • Check road signs and road markings so you know what lane you need to take well in advance of entering the roundabout.
  • Check if the roundabout is an open or closed one.
  • Be ready to stop if necessary as you approach the roundabout.
  • Continually use your mirrors and signal to the left or right according to which lane you want to exit from.
  • Join the roundabout if the traffic are at a stop, but make sure you are not blocking other vehicles from exiting.
  • Use MSPSL rules and make sure that you cancel your signal when exiting.

Video Demonstration

Useful Information

Very occasionally, you may come across a collection of roundabouts that initially appears as though it’s one giant junction.

There is a famous example of this in the town of Swindon where there are five roundabouts that are organised around one main central roundabout.

That’s a total of six roundabouts, giving it the nickname of the ‘magic roundabout’, however, while it’s intimidating and scary, you should approach as you would any other roundabout.

Essentially, in these scenarios, you should just take each roundabout as it comes and drive through it as you usually would.

Hints & Tips

Negotiating roundabouts successfully requires clear understanding of your direction of travel.

Plan your journey and use all road signs leading up to the roundabout, particularly those signs painted on lanes to ensure that you position your vehicle in the correct lane for exiting the roundabout.

Final Thoughts

Learner drivers get very panicky when approaching roundabouts but if the rules for roundabouts are followed, the process should be manageable and comfortable.

Multi-lane roundabouts can be very scary, but again, approaching them with an eye on the road signs and markings will help you to prepare and navigate safely around them.

The proper use of signals, mirrors and a consideration of other road users will all make this very important part of driving straightforward.

Further Resources