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Traffic Circles and Roundabouts

30 Apr Blog | Comments


Most traffic signs and rules are pretty straightforward and if a person uses common sense they will be fine. There are, however, a few types of “road rules” that can be confusing and downright frustrating. One of the “road rules” that tends to befuddle some folks are traffic circles and roundabouts. In part, traffic circles and roundabouts are tricky because many people mix them up. There are actually different sets of “road rules” for each, traffic circles and roundabouts.

Traffic Circles and Roundabouts

Rules for Traffic Circles

  • When entering a traffic circle a person needs to stop at the light or stop sign.

  • Speeds exceeding 25 mph are allowed.

  • Larger traffic circles usually have an island in the center of the traffic circle.

  • A traffic circle with an island will usually allow pedestrians to cross from the center island.

  • Larger traffic circles will also sometimes allow parking.


Rules for Roundabouts

  • Roundabouts can be entered by yielding to enter.

  • Speeds in a roundabout should not exceed 25 mph.

  • Even if there is an island within a roundabout, pedestrians are not allowed to cross.

  • There is also no parking allowed within roundabouts.

  • The smaller diameters of roundabouts are designed to improve safety.

  • Splitter islands are a requirement in a roundabout.


The issue with traffic circles is that they tend to be larger allowing for faster speeds, lane changes, which has also caused more traffic accidents. More modern roundabouts are smaller, have speed limits and do not allow pedestrians to cross. These updated “road rules” have minimized the number of accidents.

The other issue with traffic circles is that they were designed for lower amounts of traffic. They were also not designed to handle larger vehicles. So, when a large vehicle tries to enter it may have to turn left, even before entering the traffic circle.

Traffic circles and roundabouts are both designed to keep traffic moving in the same direction and more smoothly. The signs posted usually direct the traffic coming into the traffic circle or roundabout to yield to the traffic that is already flowing. There are also usually no traffic lights which can add to traffic jams.

Another benefit to roundabouts is the price tag. Traffic lights require long-term maintenance due to electrical costs, hardware updated and the initial basic cost. There is also the issue of power outages. Where there are traffic lights, no power can further the traffic issues. Finally, the amount of space needed to build a roundabout is overall less than a traditional traffic light set up.

Not every intersection requires a roundabout or is conducive for one. They usually look at several factors: the history of accidents at that intersection, do a lot of larger vehicles pass through the intersection and does the intersection have daily backups. All of these factors are looked at before the decision is made to add a roundabout.

Roundabouts can ease the issues of traffic jams and allow more traffic to flow more smoothly.

To learn more about roundabouts in California click here.



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