wikiHow to Drive in a Rotary

Navigating your way through a rotary (also known as a "roundabout" or "traffic circle") can be daunting in appearance, but only requires a few more skills than those used to enter and exit traffic of a major highway.


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    .]]Understand the purpose of the rotary and how it works. A rotary is a one way circular roadway that connects other roads similar to the way spokes of a wheel connect to a center or hub. Rotaries allow access to any road from any road generally without the use of traffic control lights. Common in Europe and New England, a rotary might be found at some intersections of 4 or more roads (see photo at right), but are sometimes placed in the middle of a roadway solely to calm traffic. Most of the time, rotaries are used when traffic patterns are complex due to number of streets converging or due to size of the area such as where entrance and exit ramps from both directions of an elevated highway connect to a smaller roadway below (see lower photo at right).
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    Obey all traffic signs. It's not unusual even for local residents to roll through stop signs while attempting to merge with rotary traffic. This is often because drivers are too focused on the complexity of the intersection and sheer volume of traffic than signs. Fortunately, the vehicular traffic should be coming from just one direction.
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    Yield. Many states have laws that require vehicles not yet in the rotary to yield to the traffic already in the rotary. Do not force rotary traffic to stop or to perform evasive maneuvers while attempting to merge. Merge into rotary traffic with the same principles employed at the end of highway entrance ramps, but at much slower speeds.
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    Enter the rotary. After locating a safe break in traffic or at an oncoming driver's invitation, merge into rotary traffic. Rotary traffic in the U.S. is always in a counter-clockwise direction. This means a right turn will be required to enter and to leave the rotary.
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    Once in the rotary, maintain your right-of-way. All usual precautions should apply (e.g., don't get into a show-down over anything), but yielding your right-of-way to those trying to enter is to significantly disrupt the flow of rotary traffic.
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    Continue around the rotary, watching for the road you wish to exit upon.
    • Know which road to take to get out of the rotary traffic. This can be from your understanding of the area from prior experience, a map or GPS, a passenger or even an additional trip around the rotary if necessary.
    • Stay in or navigate to the outside (right-most in the U.S.) lane of the rotary traffic to make your exit. If there are double-lane exits, DO NOT travel in the right-most lane unless you plan on exiting at the next exit; to travel past a double-lane exit in the right lane may dangerously cut-off those in a left lane who wish to (legitimately) make that exit. There are no left turn exits from a rotary that has a counter-clockwise traffic pattern.
    • If you miss your exit road from the rotary, do not stop. Continue around until the road appears again (no one will know you missed your turn - unless they too, have missed theirs). This can easily happen to anyone unfamiliar with the layout of the roads that connect to the rotary, especially if not traveling in the outside lane of the traffic.


  • Use turn signals. Indicate intent to turn so those waiting to enter the rotary ahead and drivers behind your vehicle will know what to expect.
  • Stay calm if you miss your exit. You won't have to go miles out of your way, back-up or even turn around. Just go around again.


  • In the United Kingdom, you must stop prior to entering a rotary (roundabout) unless it is clear of traffic. In the United States, who has right of way varies by state. For example, in New Jersey, the drivers manual advises that who has right of way is 'Governed by local custom'. When in doubt, let traffic out.
  • In some countries, such as the United States, United Kingdom or France, the outside lane is almost always only for traffic using the next exit. You may need to drive in the next inside lane from the farthest outside lane until your exit is the next one in the sequence.
  • Be sure to check for pedestrians, cyclists and others approaching on sidewalks, etc., particularly from the opposite direction of the rotary traffic.

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