What are large roundabouts and why are they there?
Roundabouts are placed in various spots around the UK road network to ease traffic
in that particular area, you could say that they are circular intersections of roads.
There are different rules for roundabouts as opposed to normal junctions or crossroads
for example, so it is important that you know when a roundabout is approaching so
you can fully prepare and give way to the correct flow of traffic.
When a number of roads all cross each other at the same point, a roundabout would
be required to allow some sort of order and control to allow each vehicle to join
their new road safely. Large roundabouts will normally be found in areas where busy
roads intersect each other to give users of each road a fair chance to continue
their journey without being stuck waiting for an endless line of traffic flow on
a particular road. This tutorial provided by Fineline Driving Academy will guide
you through everything you need to know about large roundabouts, we’ll do our best
to pass on as much knowledge as possible but it should be noted that practise makes
perfect, especially when it comes to roundabouts. We recommend getting some real
life practise for large roundabouts with a fully qualified driving instructor, if
you are in the west London area you can give us a call on 0800 689 9558/07446 350
220 for premium driving tuition.
Take a look at figure 1 shown below, this is a graphic showing a typical large roundabout:
Figure 1: Typical large roundabout
How to know when a roundabout is approaching
When driving in general, it is always a good idea to plan ahead so that you can
be prepared for what kind of hazards, if any, are approaching. You should take notice
of any traffic signs you see warning you of a roundabout such as a warning triangle
with a roundabout inside it, a traffic sign showing a roundabout and where the different
exits lead to, traffic lights for traffic controlled roundabouts and lane marking
signs which tell you which lane to get into for your desired exit. The earlier you
know a roundabout is approaching, the better you can prepare.
How to approach a large roundabout
The following section of this tutorial will talk about a large roundabout with three
First and foremost, you need to know where you are going! Make sure you use any
available signs to take in any information about which lane to be in (if there is
more than one lane on the approach to the roundabout. A general rule is:
• Use the left lane to turn left or follow the road ahead at a roundabout
• Use the right lane to turn right at a roundabout
This is a general rule for roundabouts, however there can be some occasions where
the left lane should be used for turning left only and the right lanes for going
ahead or turning right, figure 2 below shows an example of this.
Figure 2: Floor signs showing that the left lane is for turning left only.
Once the correct lane has been chosen, you should use the Mirrors – Signal – Manoeuvre
routine to deal with the roundabout. The mirrors should be as follows:
• Check your centre/left mirrors if you are turning left
• Check all three mirrors if you are following the road ahead
• Check your centre/right mirrors if you are turning right
Once you have checked the appropriate mirrors and are aware of what is around you,
you should signal to let other traffic know where you intend to go. Signal left
for turning left and signal right for turning right at the roundabout, you shouldn’t
signal on the approach if you are following the road ahead.
How to join a large roundabout
To join the roundabout, you need to give way to traffic on the right. Adjust your
speed according to the road conditions, you should shift down into 2nd gear on the
approach to the roundabout and release the clutch whilst braking with your right
foot. Your aim is to join the roundabout without having to stop so try to adjust
your speed by slowing down more on the approach if you see traffic on your right
that you need to give way to. If it is clear, you can just apply the gas and continue,
if there is traffic on your right then you should select gear 1 and try to keep
your car rolling until the traffic on your right has gone. Sometimes you will have
to stop if there is continuous traffic on the right. Check out the following video
for a demonstration of how to join a large roundabout.
Take note of these useful points when you are about to join a roundabout:
• Keep an eye on traffic in front of you trying to join the roundabout, if it is
clear and they don’t join then you will probably collide with the back of their
• Keep an eye on how the kerb of the roundabout is laid down. Sometimes on the approach
to a roundabout, you will have a chunk of kerb sticking out which is easy to go
into if you have your attention on the traffic on your right. Figure 3 below shows an
awkward kerb hazard:
Figure 3. Chunk of kerb hanging out on approach to roundabout
• Some fast paced roundabouts will require you to move off quicker than usual to
avoid being a hazard for traffic already on the roundabout, if this is the case
you should make sure you apply more gas than usual to avoid stalling.
How to leave a large roundabout
After you pass the last exit that you don’t want, you should check your centre/left
mirrors and indicate left to let traffic know you intend to leave the roundabout.
You should position to the left lane or as much to the left as possible, if there
is a car already in the position on your left then you should exit in the right
lane of the exit road. If there is only one lane in the exit road and there is a
car already on your left as you want to leave, you should go around the roundabout
again and try to exit the roundabout in the same manner.
Once leaving the roundabout you should always look ahead to see what is going on
in front of you, check your rear view mirror to see what is going on behind you
and proceed with caution.
When you are waiting to join a large roundabout which is quite busy, you could find
yourself waiting for quite some time. If this is the case, you will probably only
get a decent opportunity to join the roundabout when traffic directly on your right
is being blocked off by cars that they are waiting for, this creates a window of
opportunity which you can take advantage of by joining the roundabout. If you are
presented with a very busy roundabout during your practical driving test and cannot
join because of constant traffic from the right, your examiner will expect you to
use the block-off technique to join the roundabout and will certainly fail you if
you keep missing opportunities to join the roundabout.
The key is to keep a close eye on traffic directly on your right (this could be
2 or 3 lanes of traffic). When this flow of traffic stops, it is probably because
there is someone on their right who they are giving way to, this slight pause is
your opportunity to join the roundabout and continue your journey to your desired
exit. The following video should clear up any confusion about ‘the block-off’ on
a large roundabout:
Large roundabouts with more than 3 exits
You will undoubtedly have to deal with a roundabout that has more than 3 exits during
your time on the road, you can expect a more complicated affair when dealing with
these types of roundabouts however preparing correctly and using the signs will
help out a great deal. We will try our best to guide you through these multi-exit
roundabouts but you should take each of these roundabouts on their own merit, use
all of the signs and get into the correct lane on the approach. You should try to
end up on the left lane as you are about to leave the roundabout, these types of
roundabouts nearly always have lane markings throughout to help guide you through
the course of the roundabout.
We will use a case study based on a roundabout which has 5 exits in total, the roundabout
is traffic controlled so traffic on the right will be guided by their own set of
lights. The approach has 3 lanes so we will decide which lane to use on the approach
according to where we wish to go. There are no sign posts on the approach showing
which lane to get into so we will assume the following:
• Lane 1 is for the 1st exit and 2nd exit
• Lane 2 is for the 3rd exit
• Lane 3 is for the 4th exit
Although there are no sign posts telling you which lane to get into, there are signs
on the road itself which show you where that lane will take you (in this case the
town name is on the road). Figure 4 below shows the road markings:
Figure 4. Lane markings shown on the ground of a multi lane roundabout
When you join the roundabout in the correct lane, all you have to do is remain in
your lane and keep checking that it is taking you where you want to go, however on some occasions you may have to move over to the left lane whilst on the roundabout to leave the roundabout safely. Dont forget
to check your left mirror as you leave the roundabout, the following video shows how to correctly
deal with a multi lane roundabout:
Vehicles blocking your view when trying to join a roundabout
If there is more than one lane on the approach to the roundabout and you are not
in the rightmost lane, you could find your view blocked by other vehicles wishing
to join the roundabout. This is caused by drivers edging out bit by bit, with cars
on their left being left unable to see what traffic is on the roundabout without
going over the give way line at the roundabout. If this happens to you, you have
no choice but to edge out until you can see. Try looking through the obstructing
car if possible, but never join the roundabout just because the blocking vehicle
has joined. If you don’t keep edging out, you’ll be waiting forever but at the same
time you shouldn’t edge out too much. This possible problem is quite hazardous when
it comes to joining a large roundabout however with caution and careful anticipation, any problems can be easily avoided.
Things to look out for at large roundabout
When driving on the roads in the UK, there are many spontaneous things that could
happen which are not only dangerous but completely unexpected. You should remain
cautious and vigilant at all times whilst driving in general, however look out for
the following possible hazards at large roundabouts that can cause problems if misjudged:
• Look out for crossings on the approach/exit of a roundabout. These crossings can
pop up out of nowhere so make sure you look out for any crossings that might be
very close to a roundabout.
• Many cars find themselves in the wrong lane to exit a roundabout so look out for
cars suddenly pulling out in front of you, or behaving erratically whilst on the
• Look out for cyclists/horse riders who use large roundabouts. They usually keep
to the left lane regardless of which exit they are taking so look out for their
signals and don’t cut sharply in front of them if you wish to leave the roundabout
and they are near the exit.
• Be careful of large vehicles straddling lanes to make up for the size of the vehicle
not being able to stay in a lane. Large trucks nearly always swing out quite far
so they avoid mounting a kerb or to make sure they can turn enough.
• Traffic will cross very close to you if they intend to leave at the next exit
so make sure you don’t go over the stop line unless your view is obstructed.
• Sometimes people don’t indicate properly at roundabouts so be extra careful if
a car is taking up an unusual position or travelling at speed towards you even though
they are indicating to show they are exiting the roundabout.
• Traffic might be performing a U-turn at a roundabout and are perfectly entitled
to do so, never assume a car is leaving the roundabout unless you are absolutely
sure that they will be out of your way by viewing their position on the roundabout.
FINELINES guide to dealing with large roundabouts
This tutorial has gone into as much detail as possible to help you deal with large
roundabouts, this part of driving can be a tricky one so practise will make perfect
and we recommend you try out as many different roundabouts as possible before taking
your driving test. Driving examiners realise that roundabouts require good planning
and quick thinking and therefore you will definitely have to deal with a number
of roundabouts on your practical test.
As we do at the end of all of our tutorials, here is a recap of what we have gone
over in this tutorial:
• On the approach to your roundabout, use the MSM routine to check the correct mirrors
and signal appropriately. Remember that if you are following the road ahead, you
don’t need to signal.
• Get into the correct lane! This will make dealing with the roundabout a lot easier
and prevent confusion for yourself and other drivers during the course of the roundabout.
Use any signs or paintings on the road to help you get into the correct lane. Otherwise,
stick to the left lane for turning left or going ahead and the right lane for turning
• Ensure you shift down to 2nd gear for the roundabout and release the clutch after
you have done so, you should be braking at the same time to slow your vehicle down.
If there is traffic on the right that you need to give way to then select 1st and
try to join the roundabout without having to stop.
• Always keep an eye on traffic in front of you waiting to join the roundabout.
Unfortunately, many staged accidents are caused by criminals braking before joining
a roundabout when there is clearly no traffic to give way to, causing you to collide
with the rear of their car.
• Always indicate left after you pass the last exit that you don’t want, this will
help traffic know where you intend to go.
• If the roundabout is very busy, use the ‘block-off’ technique where traffic directly
on your right stops to give way to traffic on their right therefore creating a opportunity
for you to join the roundabout.
• If you find yourself in the incorrect lane when you are about to join the roundabout,
don’t try to correct it because this is likely to cause a collision. Just continue
in your current lane and try to turn around in a side road later on if possible.