Roundabouts and the Learner Driver

Driving Tips - Zipper's Driving School

Site Map HOME  »  Driving Tips index  »  Roundabout basics  »  Roundabouts and Learner Drivers (you are here)

Also see: Roundabout variations

On this page:   |  Approaching   |  Don't assume   |  Stopping   |  Using wrong lane  |

Roundabouts can be intimidating to learners !

Experienced drivers usually prefer roundabouts to traffic lights as they feel that roundabouts don't hold them up as much, and this is largely true although traffic lights do handle some situations better, especially in very heavy traffic.

However to cope at roundabouts in heavy traffic, drivers must make a fast decision to go or not go, and then act on that decision promptly - hesitation can not only mean losing an opportunity to enter the roundabout, learner drivers are in danger of entering too late and colliding.

Experienced drivers tend to forget how hard it is for learners to make fast decisions and get a car (even an automatic) moving into the traffic flow quickly and reliably when under pressure.

So don't take your learner to busy roundabouts until they can get a manual car moving off the line reliably without stalling, and when they've had enough experience to have a reasonable chance of handling the situation safely.
And please, do ASSIST them! It is your legal obligation as an accompanying driver.

Helping learners to avoid common mistakes

 Approach at a safe speed 

Remember that your learner needs more time than you do to assess the situation when approaching a roundabout.
Encourage the learner to look ahead and plan, make sure they approach at a suitable speed especially if there is traffic at or in the roundabout, and if the view of traffic approaching the roundabout from other directions is obstructed by fences, trees etc.


 Giving way - don't "assume"! 

A mistake made by learners - and experienced drivers too - is to assume that a vehicle on a roundabout not signalling to leave (a common occurrence), is going to leave the roundabout before they reach you.
The situation on the right is a typical example ...

The blue car is assuming that the yellow car entering the roundabout is turning right and will leave the roundabout at point (1), even though it is not signalling to leave.

However it is possible that the yellow car is intending to do a legal U-turn & leave at point (2), and a collision could occur.
So make sure your learner driver is always prepared for this situation and don't trust any vehicle in a roundabout which isn't signalling !


 Stopping at the line 

Make sure the learner stops right at the give way line (but not over it!) when it is necessary to stop.
In the left hand lane, stopping back behind the line will allow cars on your right to block vision of approaching traffic, and in all cases it will take longer to actually enter the roundabout, significantly reducing the safety margin.
The car should be "aimed" towards the correct lane while waiting to go - see (4) below.

 Using the wrong lane 

Typical reasons why learners enter the roundabout in the wrong lane or change lanes inside it are:
  1. Lacking in knowledge of the road rules on roundabouts.
    As well as the info on this site, leaflets on roundabouts are available free at MVR offices, keep one in the glovebox.
    If the learner is a family member, they pick up a lot of their driving habits directly from you so make sure that YOU always do the right thing, not just at roundabouts but at all times when you are driving!
  2. Not understanding the serious danger inherent in wrong lane usage.
    Do not allow your learner to change lanes inside a roundabout just because there are no other vehicles around, as well as being wrong this could develop into a dangerous habit.
  3. Not observing lane usage signs and road arrows when approaching the roundabout.
    Point these out as you approach and encourage the learner to observe them and plan ahead.
  4. Not having the car aimed correctly when stopped.
    This is a reason why even experienced drivers will often attempt to enter the roundabout from the left lane into the right lane, so it is a common problem for learners.
    It is caused by looking too long at traffic, omitting to divide their attention sufficiently to ensure they stop with the car aimed towards the correct lane.
    When the nerve-wracking decision to go is made, they can forget which lane is the correct one and simply drive into the one the car is pointed at.
    You may have to assist them by handling the steering wheel when necessary.
|  Top of Page  |                   © John Ziersch, Zipper's Driving School                   April 2010