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Driving around Traffic Circle / Roundabout

In South Africa we often refer to roundabouts as “traffic circles”. A roundabout is a type of circular intersection that reduces potential conflicts between vehicles and improves the efficiency of the intersection.

The advantages of a roundabout are:

  • Traffic calming
  • Reduction of angle and head-on crashes
  • Reduction of crash severity
  • Improvement of intersection capacity
  • Aesthetic improvements

Approaching a roundabout:

  • On approaching a roundabout take notice and act on all the information available to you, including traffic signs, traffic lights and lane markings which direct you into the correct lane.
  • If you take your time and make sure you are in the correct lane a good distance from the roundabout you can't go far wrong.
  • Slow down as you approach the intersection - You're typically not required to stop.
  • A roundabout is designed to be driven at low speed. Entering and traveling through a roundabout at higher speed is difficult and could be unsafe.
  • Don't worry if you have to stop when you reach the roundabout. When it's clear, ease up off the clutch smoothly, don't rush, keep using the mirrors, and above all, stay calm.
  • As you enter the roundabout, traffic coming from your right has right of way. This means that traffic streaming into the roundabout from the entrance to your right will keep coming as long as no one is coming from their right.
  • These cars may not even slow down as they enter the roundabout, because they have the right of way. You must stop and wait until there is a break in traffic. Watch out for other traffic in the roundabout.
  • Once you are on the roundabout maintain a reasonable speed. Failing to do this, especially when you are in the right-hand lane, may result in other drivers passing on the nearside.
  • Watch out for vehicles already on the roundabout; be aware they may not be signaling correctly or signaling at all.
  • Always keep an eye on the vehicle in front as you're about to emerge. Don't assume the driver won't have to stop while you're still looking right. Many rear end collisions happen this way. Make sure the vehicle has actually moved away.
  • Watch for pedestrians and bicycles.
  • Keep in mind that buses or large trucks need extra room to make turns and might take up more than one lane in a traffic circle.
  • Obey all traffic signs and road markings.
  • Signal your intent to other drivers when entering, going around and exiting the circle.
  • If you miss your turn, just go around again. Avoid swerving at the last minute.

Approaching a roundabout

Step by step example: The graphic will provide better insight with regards to the process to follow:


To Turn Left (taking the first exit)

  • signal left and approach in the left-hand lane
  • keep to the left on the roundabout and continue signaling left to leave.

To go straight on (taking the second exit)

  • select the appropriate lane on approach to and on the roundabout. If no marking on the road it is usually safest to keep to the left lane
  • stay in this lane until you need to alter course to exit the roundabout
  • signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you want.

To Turn Right (taking the last exit or third exit )

  • signal right and approach in the right-hand lane
  • keep to the right on the roundabout until you need to change lanes to exit the roundabout
  • signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you want.

Note: The animation shows the vehicle exit the roundabout into the right lane (Lane 2). You should only do this if there is traffic in the nearside lane or you wish to turn right straight after leaving the roundabout.
In an ideal situation you should leave the roundabout in the left lane (Lane 1)

By applying some of this information and sharing this with colleagues and friends we might contribute towards reducing some of the road rage on our roads!

The rules for traffic circles in South Africa are as follows:


Slow down and give way to other vehicles that cross any Yield line before you do.

Proceed in a clockwise direction around the painted island, without driving on it.

In the words of the official legislation:

Indicates to the driver of a vehicle approaching a mini circle that he or she shall yield right of way to any vehicle which will cross any yield line at such junction before him or her and which, in the normal course of events, will cross the path of such driver's vehicle and that the driver shall move in a clockwise direction within such junction and attempt not to encroach on the mini-circle.



You must obey traffic circle rules at the roundabout.

In the words of the official legislation:

Indicates to the driver of a vehicle that he or she shall move in a clockwise direction at the junction ahead and he or she shall yield right of way to traffic approaching from the right, within the roundabout, where such vehicles are so close as to constitute a danger or potential danger.

The official regulations in South Africa leave a lot to be desired when it comes to the finer aspects of driving, and they do not in fact address the situation as described in the sketch provided (below).


It is not clear from this sketch which of the two arrows in the approaching roads represents which of the vehicles.

Assuming that A came from the two-lane dual-carriageway on the right, and was travelling in the LH lane on approach to the roundabout, and B came from the lower road and approached the circle in the RH lane:

- Then he entered the circle from the wrong lane if he intended using the circle to turn back and drive back on the same dual-carriage road to the right. He should have been in the RH lane when entering the circle.
- And B should not have entered the circle until A had passed anyway. (rules of traffic circles)

Assuming it was the other way round and A came from the bottom road, in the RH lane:
- A was entered the circle from the correct lane but somehow got into the outside lane once in the circle, which is wrong for the exit he wished to take.
- Also, A should have waited for B before entering the circle, and would therefore not have ended up in this situation.

Whichever way it happened, either or both of the vehicles ended up in the wrong lane within the circle and that is the cause of the problem.

Of course, this assumes a fairly small roundabout.

Have said that, when one gets in a fix such as this the norm would be for the vehicle that is ahead of the other vehicle to move forward and for the vehicle behind to allow it to get out of the way so that it can exit the circle. However, as both A and B are alongside each other, the Calgary rule would seem the most appropriate.

At the end of the day, no vehicle in a traffic circle should obstruct another's line of travel. So if there were any doubt at all, B should go around the island another time (or even two) and move into the LH lane when it is safe to do so, and then exit from that outer lane when it is safe to do so. (Of course, he would check mirrors and blind spots first, then if it is safe, use the left indicator, and all that other "good K53 stuff".

Also view:

Driving the Roundabout / Traffic Circle safely with the dashboard camera

Roundabout Rules - Explanation by Gavin Hoole / Author of publications on the K53


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