Turn Signal on a Roundabout; Reader Comments Part 1: NMA E-Newsletter #586

Editor’s Note: One thing we do know about roundabouts (traffic circles or rotaries), every driver has an opinion. There is something fundamental about stopping, yielding, and signaling that seems to create as much conflict on the road and strong opinions as almost anything we tackle.

Roundabouts, just like speed limits, are something that many drivers encounter every time they travel in their vehicles. Most understand the importance of making asset forfeiture laws fairer, but because it is more of an abstract idea for most people, they aren’t as opinionated or emotionally involved.

Last week we asked for your comments and received more comments on Newsletter #585, than any other. Over the next couple of weeks, the newsletter will be devoted to those comments.

Readers’ Comments Part 1

Turn signals should not be required in roundabouts. Why? Fundamentally, roundabouts have their own unique set of rules that make signaling superfluous. Follow the rules, and drivers are inherently safe.

But there’s another important issue to consider. Roundabouts require a great deal of concentration and focus on monitoring what other drivers are doing while negotiating where to exit and from which lane.

Attempting to signal in a roundabout is clearly much more complicated than when approaching a typical intersection. If signaling in a roundabout was required under law, there would be an exact point in space and moment in time to initiate your signal. Throwing in a requirement to figure out when to do this will overload the concentration of many drivers, even good ones, potentially resulting in crashes.

Jim Garry, New York


In Switzerland and Germany, roundabouts are everywhere. But as I tell my friends about America, “If Americans don’t invent it, it’s not good.” Europeans signal in roundabouts just as DefensiveDriving.com describes. And they always do.

In Minneapolis, driving is often guesswork. The most incompetent, passive-aggressive drivers I have ever seen.

James Crue, Minnesota


DefensiveDriving.com’s signaling guidelines for roundabouts (which is what the British call them –many Americans call them traffic circles and those in New England, call them rotaries) are, for the most part, sensible. Except for the third section, “When turning left (last exit/three-quarters around), signal left upon entering, switch to the right as you come to the exit” is illogical and sure to confuse other motorists. It is akin to signaling left then right at a typical intersection when you intend to turn right and then turn left down the road at the next corner.

Strike guideline three and amend the second to read: “For all subsequent turns, no signal upon entering, signal as you approach your exit.” Those two guidelines are more straightforward and cover every option without confusion.

Michael Lawler, California


While the use of turn signals is always advisable when it effectively communicates the driver’s intentions, failure to use them, or incorrect usage in the judgment of someone else, should never be considered a basis for citation or arrest. Drivers should never rely entirely on another driver’s use or failure to use turn signals in determining their driving actions.

James, Texas


I think if anyone signaled as suggested by DefensiveDriving.com in the newsletter, it would confuse the heck out of me, particularly the third idea. Is he going to go CLOCKWISE when he enters the roundabout?

Pat, Arizona


In 1972, while driving in Mexico City on my way to Acapulco, I was trying to enter a large roundabout (that were all over the city) without success because it was so crowded, and nobody would let us in.

Apparently, you needed to crash your way in, as noted by all the damaged cars! Anyway, in the center of the roundabout was a policeman on a pedestal who saw us having a problem. He blew his whistle, and bravely stepped right into traffic with hand held high. Everything screeched to a halt. He calmly walked over to my International Scout & said, “Senor, what are you doing, please?” My passenger and I cracked up, the officer smiled with us, then proceeded to walk us into traffic and waved us on. To sum up: Lawmakers, what are you doing, please?

Jeff Talbot, Oregon


I can find no viable reason for signaling before entering a roundabout since all vehicles need to reduce their speeds beforehand. Cars should uniformly enter each roundabout; that includes yielding to traffic from the left, enforced with the posting of a Yield sign at each point of entry.

I can find no other purpose for signaling at a roundabout, except to indicate an intent to exit a roundabout at a particular road, and that’s always to the right.

Thus in Indiana and any other states that have such laws on the books – any legal requirement to signal a left turn or right turn before entering a roundabout should not be enforced.

Donald, Wisconsin


I’ve given up. Self-canceling signals found on virtually every light vehicle aren’t conducive to it. Too much wheel movement in both directions.

Mike Siedlecki, Oregon


In my town, there is a roundabout that used to be a T-intersection, so it only has 3 points of entry/exit. Going north or south on the street, there is hardly a turn (and tons of tire tracks as people have literally driven straight through. Only when you exit to the east (first option on northbound, second on southbound), there is a “real” turn. Should north/southbound traffic signal when continuing straight? I typically only use my turn signal when heading east or coming from the east.

Jim Ely, Virginia


This was an excellent article about how ticket-issuing police forces can exploit unclear laws. I think about this gap in the law every time I use the roundabout near my home.

I don’t know what “DefensiveDriving.com” is, but their advice is dubious. There is no reason to signal upon entering a roundabout, as traffic in the circle has the right of way, and there is only one place for an entering car to go. Signaling a left turn makes no sense.

I have begun signaling a right turn before leaving a roundabout, if I need to change lanes, and as a courtesy to drivers who may be waiting to enter downstream.

Aarne Frobom, Michigan, NMA Foundation Director

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