Why Signalling in Roundabouts is so Important

Much like intersections controlled by stop signs or traffic lights, roundabouts are an effective way to safely manage intersecting vehicles and pedestrians going their various ways.

We can all agree using turn signals at stop signs and traffic lights is a simple and straightforward way to let others know where we’re going. Turning left? Flick on the left turn signal. Turning right? Activate the right. Going straight? Chill, and wait for your chance to continue on your way.

Safe driving = Great communication.

But for some reason, many drivers in British Columbia seem to think turn signals don’t have a place in roundabouts.

In fact, we recently set up a video camera at a roundabout to capture proof of this bleak, “blinkerless” trend. But if more of us keep sending out the proper signals, the trend is sure to shift.

Let it be known that the Oh Mighty Blinker is actually quite important for alerting other drivers of your intentions while travelling roundabouts.

Signalling in roundabouts can be summarized like this:

When entering roundabout: activate signal corresponding with the exit you plan on taking.

  • First exit (typically a right turn) = right turn signal
  • Second exit (typically going straight through roundabout) = No signal
  • Third exit (typically a left turn) = left turn signal

When exiting roundabout: activate right turn signal

Look at it like this: A roundabout is essentially a four-way intersection with a rotary traffic island in the middle. Signalling where you intend to go, and when you exit, is best practice. These rules are consistent with other countries, such as the United Kingdom, where roundabouts have been used for decades to improve safety and traffic flow.

Why is signalling in roundabouts so important?

Turn signals allow drivers entering the roundabout to better determine a safe opportunity to proceed. They also warn drivers already in the roundabout – those following behind, for example – when they can expect the vehicle ahead of them to slow down and turn off.

Let’s all agree to flick the switch for roundabouts.

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19 Responses to Why Signalling in Roundabouts is so Important

  1. Erik on October 13, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    Its good to see we are finally recommending people to use their left turn signals while inside the roundabout. It is neither illegal or confusing or to use the left turn signal while inside the roundabout. It is a courtesy and makes for a smoother experience.
    I would love to see ICBC promote this in their driving handbook not recommending to signal just when exiting but also while in the roundabout.

    • tranbceditor on October 13, 2017 at 4:44 pm

      We are glad to hear your positive feedback on this Erik – thanks!

  2. Ian McFarlane on October 10, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    Four Way stop signs are older then Roundabouts and people still don’t know if a left turner goes before or after the oncoming vehicle. Think of it as green lights, you wait for through traffic then turn left. With Roundabouts do not let the fact that the pavement goes into a curve stump you. If it was a straight road with many side streets you would first wait for a clearing to enter. Like a multi- lane straight road you work your way over (use signals) to your exit (fore thought). You might have to go around again. Remember just because YOU made a mistake doesn’t mean that we all have to pay for it. Signals in a Roundabout, only to change lanes. Forewarning for others to enter-foolhardy. There is always a guy right behind me as I exit, I exit at the same speed as in the Roundabout. Drive as you need to, safely. Uncontrolled (power lines down) intersections-Four-way stop procedure.

    • tranbceditor on October 11, 2017 at 2:18 pm

      Hi Ian,
      Thanks for your comments here. We mostly agree with you (especially the safety part!) except on the signalling to change lanes in the roundabout. If you are travelling in a roundabout with more than one lane, you should always choose your lane of travel in advance of entering to prevent you from having to change lanes while in the roundabout. We encourage drivers to signal their intention when entering and when exiting the roundabout as a best practice and to let others know where they plan on going. All traffic outside the roundabout should yield to traffic already in the circle, thereby reducing the risk of collision. Safe travels.

  3. MelanieR on October 9, 2017 at 11:09 am

    I think you might have it wrong. Some round-abouts have four lanes circling and can have 5, 6, 7 exits. As you explain it it would be a nightmare! No signal going “straight”? Which one is straight ahead? Your method would only be practical in those tiny,residential,one-lane, traffic-calming roundabouts. Standard international method: Signal left while circling (BTW:we merge left into the round-about and circle left whilst in it). Signal right to exit. There are no left turns in a round about. It is not “like a four way intersection”. It is it’s own thing. Also when there is more than one lane in the round-about, you are to circle in the inner-most lane until passing the exit before the one you wish to take.

    • tranbceditor on October 12, 2017 at 2:58 pm

      Hi Melanie,

      Thanks for your comment. Vehicles intending to travel straight through the circle are not required to signal their intention to move straight through when entering the circle but they are required to signal their intent to exit by signalling right.

      Also, it might not feel like it while you are in the circle, but if you think about it, when you enter at the six o’clock point and travel around the circle to exit at the nine o’clock point, you are actually making a left turn (you are turning your steering wheel to the left).

      Finally, if there is more than one lane in the roundabout, there will be two lanes to exit at each exit point (you shouldn’t have to change lanes to exit). You should exit at your chosen point from the lane you travelled around the circle in. Hope that this helps.

  4. Carol Beauchemin on October 5, 2017 at 11:10 am

    Love this basic rule structure. Only wish it was that simple.
    Yes, roundabouts are very good junctions, especially where people have been taught to use them correctly.
    But even when most people have been taught to use them well, there are often many mistakes.
    Just to assume that by following the rules and indicating correctly, our progress will be assured, it a dangerous route to being surprised when it’s not.
    Indicators are a very good tool for sharing our intentions with others. But the important factor here is who are we signalling to? It is no good religiously putting an indicator on, if by doing so it sends the wrong signal to another road user.
    As part of a dynamic risk assessment, we can negotiate roundabouts in a safe manner, with due care and attention to other road users, but this does not necessary mean just following the novice training manual on textbook roundabout signalling.

    To follow this up see the roundabout section of my video on prediction and surprises –
    https://youtu.be/3aNDdh1fD1Q?t=10m58s

  5. Shannon on October 4, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    Signalling left when entering a roundabout is a good way to make the person behind you think you’re stupid enough to maybe turn the wrong way.

    NEVER signal when entering. There’s only one way in. Signal right immediately after you pass the exit prior to your own.

    I cannot believe you’re giving this advice, contrary to ICBC’s advice, and contrary to the actual law. No wonder no one knows the actual rules.

    • tranbceditor on October 5, 2017 at 4:33 pm

      Hi Shannon. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The Motor Vehicle Act does not cover signalling in roundabouts separately from other intersections.
      Section 170 states:
      (1) If traffic may be affected by turning a vehicle, a person must not turn it without giving the appropriate signal under sections 171 and 172.
      (2) If a signal of intention to turn right or left is required, a driver must give it continuously for sufficient distance before making the turn to warn traffic.
      (3) If there is an opportunity to give a signal, a driver must not stop or suddenly decrease the speed of a vehicle without first giving the appropriate signal under sections 171 and 172.

      Meanwhile, Section 150 (3) states:
      (3) The driver of a vehicle passing around a rotary traffic island must drive the vehicle to the right of the island.

      A roundabout is essentially a four-way intersection with a rotary traffic island in the middle. As such, drivers should signal accordingly as best practice. Signalling where you intend to go, and when you exit, is best practice. When planning a left turn through a roundabout, for example, a left turn signal indicates to drivers waiting to enter the roundabout that you are continuing past them, and so they should yield. These signal rules are consistent with other countries, such as the United Kingdom.

      We are discussing with ICBC about refining their guide, which only mentions signalling right when exiting (also very important).

      • Mike on November 2, 2017 at 1:57 pm

        You reference section 170 of the MVA which states: The driver of a vehicle passing around a rotary traffic island must drive the vehicle to the right of the island.

        I complained that logging trucks were driving over the traffic islands on the new Westshore Parkway (in fact the drivers often do not try to navigate around the islands). The bylaw officer for Langford emailed me: “the traffic circles are designed to be driven on for these large trucks making turns”.

        Do trucks have different rules permitting driving over traffic circles?

        • tranbceditor on November 3, 2017 at 10:54 am

          Hi Mike,

          The skirt of a roundabout is actually called a truck apron which has the characteristic of being “mountable.” Beyond the truck apron, there is a vertical curb which is non-mountable. Just like the curb that separates a sidewalk from the surface of a road, the raised curb beyond the truck apron is what defines the rotary island that drivers must keep right of. The truck apron is a required design requirement of all ministry roundabouts to allow the trailers of trucks to not travel on the rotary island.

  6. Brian Lang on October 4, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Needs some revision as follows:

    First exit (typically a right turn) = right turn signal
    Second exit (typically going straight through roundabout) = left turn signal until past first exit, then right turn signal
    Third exit (typically a left turn) = left turn signal until past second exit, then right turn signal
    Fourth exit (legal u-turn) = left turn signal until past third exit, then right turn signal

    This is the international standard. Why should BC be different and not require signals for straight through (second exit) movements?

    • tranbceditor on October 4, 2017 at 4:35 pm

      Hi Brian and thanks for connecting with us and sharing your feedback. If you imagine the traffic circle without the concrete middle, you are left with an uncontrolled intersection. In an uncontrolled intersection, you need to signal the direction in which you wish to travel. In the case of someone wanting to go straight ahead – no signal is required. Or how about this – consider that the roundabout has two lanes and the driver intending to travel straight through the intersection signalled left upon entering the roundabout. Other drivers waiting to enter the circle might view this as an opportunity to enter the circle, creating a risk of collision (despite the basic roundabout rule – yield to traffic in the circle). Make sense?

      We should also point out these rules are consistent with other countries. Take the United Kingdom, for example: https://www.gov.uk/…/the…/using-the-road-159-to-203

      • Melanie on October 5, 2017 at 4:45 pm

        Generally a good article, and a topic that BC drivers certainly need more education on.

        That said, Brian has it right, and his suggestion completely agrees with Rule 186 of the UK regulations (Signals And Position).

        It’s a little confusing reading the UK rules, because they drive on the other side of the road, but in BC it translates to:
        – if taking the first exit, then signal right when entering the roundabout and stay in the outer lane of the roundabout, heading straight to your exit (assuming a two-lane roundabout)
        – if taking the any other exit (second or later), then signal left to enter and move to the innermost lane in the roundabout (keeping your left signal on). As you pass the last exit you *don’t* want, signal right and move to the outside lane and then take your exit.

        For all drivers waiting to enter, they know exactly whether the drivers already in the roundabout intend to stay in the inside line and continue on the circle, or cross directly in front (of the waiting car) to take their exit.

        • tranbceditor on October 6, 2017 at 11:14 am

          Hi Melanie. Thanks for looking over the UK rules, which are similar (but, of course, follow the opposite direction). Here is the section of Rule 186 that indicates drivers do not have to signal while entering a roundabout if they intend to take the second exit (i.e. go straight through the roundabout):

          “When taking any intermediate exit, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise
          – select the appropriate lane on approach to the roundabout
          you should not normally need to signal on approach
          – stay in this lane until you need to alter course to exit the roundabout
          – signal left (right in Canada) after you have passed the exit before the one you want.”

          That page also has a good graphic that displays all three options.

        • Cheryl on October 22, 2017 at 11:26 pm

          I’m from England and spent 17 years driving there. You do not signal if you are tou going straight on in a roundabout!

  7. Shauna Clinging on October 3, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    Mistake #1: The Left-Turn Signal. There is no such thing as a left turn in a roundabout. You do not need to signal upon entering a roundabout as there is only one direction in which you can enter. A left-turn signal is utterly confusing, redundant, and plain silly. It is also annoying. It provides no useful information for the driver behind you. Even driving instructors often get that wrong: it appears that they haven’t read the ICBC Rules of the Road for BC. If you are a driving instructor and you are teaching your students to signal left when entering a roundabout in the left lane, you are teaching your students bad practice that is not consistent with ICBC rules. Technically, it is not a violation, but it is bad practice. I often see drivers (including driving schools) signalling left going through the roundabout, in their mind “making a left turn” by taking the 3rd exit. But how are other drivers supposed to know where you entered the roundabout? The danger is that the left turn signal is still in use when the motorists is exiting the roundabout, instead of using the right signal to exit, as is required. Most vehicles automatically turn off the signal when you turn in the opposite direction, but the gentle right turn entering into a roundabout may not be sufficient for disengaging the left-turn signal. Repeat: do not signal entering a roundabout. It is not against the law, but it is silly and dangerous.

  8. Shauna Clinging on October 3, 2017 at 8:56 pm

    ICBC road safety does not recommend signalling to enter the round about.
    http://www.icbc.com/road-safety/driving-tips/Pages/How-to-use-roundabout.aspx

    I believe there is no reason to signal entering the round about. As far as I know there is no legal requirement to signal entering the round about. From what I can gather from my worldly and travelled friends it is common practice not to signal entering the round about. The article below mentions left signalling entering the round about is a common mistake.

    https://wernerantweiler.ca/blog.php?item=2016-01-01

    • tranbceditor on October 4, 2017 at 4:24 pm

      Hi Shauna,

      Thanks for your comments and for sharing the link to the ICBC information. You are correct, the link does not recommend using signals when entering the roundabout, only when exiting. We are encouraging signalling as best practice when entering and exiting to keep drivers informed of your plans and reducing any possibility of conflict. The left turn signal isn’t just for the driver behind you, it is also for the other drivers waiting to enter the circle. It gives everyone the information they need to decide if they can safely enter (or exit) the circle. If you imagine the traffic circle without the concrete middle, you are left with an uncontrolled intersection. In an uncontrolled intersection, you need to signal the direction in which you wish to travel. In the case of someone looking to “turn left” at the roundabout, they should indicate that they intend to turn left until they pass the traffic at the twelve o’clock (or straight ahead) position and then signal right to exit. Phew! Hope that this helps.

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