Traffic Circles, Roundabouts and Rotaries

Traffic Circles, Roundabouts and Rotaries
Traffic circles, roundabouts and rotaries are intersections that route traffic around a center island in a counterclockwise direction.

In New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island, drivers entering the rotary must yield to traffic already on the traffic circle, but in Connecticut and Vermont, those already on the circle are required to yield to the traffic that is entering. Added to this confusion is the fact that some rotaries have two lanes, which means that if you are going more than halfway around the circle, you should be on the inner lane (the one closest to the island in the middle) and merge into the outer lane when your rotary exit approaches.

Wicked confusing isn’t it?

I live on Cape Cod, home of the worst rotaries in New England. This is not only because we have tourists from all over the world, many who do not know what our state’s rotary laws are, but also because we have many traffic circles with two lanes. Here is how I survive the ordeal.

  • Approach with caution and go slow.
  • Always assume that the other guy on the rotary does not know the rules.
  • Forget about being in the right and be patient and understanding.
  • If you are on a two lane rotary/circle/roundabout and are going more than halfway around the rotary, be in the inner lane and signal a change into the outer lane as your exit approaches. If you miss your exit because you can’t get over, just go around again. It’s a circle and only takes seconds of your time to try again.
  • Always keep an eye on merging traffic as some people may or may not yield to you.
  • Keep your eye on the car in the inner lane as you take your exit. They may panic and cross right in front of you, or into you, in order to take the same exit without anticipating it in advance. Again, don’t get mad. Keep your wits about you and stay focused.
  • Stay calm and take your time. We’ve already covered the fact that it’s wicked confusing and anger at anyone’s ignorance will not help.

I have driven on the worst rotaries in New England for over 25 years and have never been involved in an accident on one. Driving defensively is the key here. Don’t let your GPS freak you out when it says “Take the second exit on the roundabout”, because it is just a circle and you can go round and round as many times as you want. Don’t panic and keep your eyes on everyone around you and you’ll be just fine.



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