Highway Code rule 185 clause 1 states:

When reaching the roundabout you should give priority to traffic approaching from your right, unless directed otherwise by signs, road markings or traffic lights.

However, there is no equivalently strong rule that says to give priority to traffic already on a roundabout (or other junction).

This creates a problem:

Illustration 1:

The vehicle emerging from the right is turning left. So you proceed onto the roundabout. The vehicle behind the one turning left shoots across and collides with you. Technically, without an 'already on the junction' rule, you are in the wrong.

Illustration 2:

A four-way mini roundabout. A vehicle arrives at each junction pretty-much simultaneously. Each gives way to the one to the right and comes to a stop. In practice, one driver proceeds and the lock-out is solved. However, he is now in breach of rule 185 clause 1. If the driver to his right was to accelerate and cause a collision, the first driver to move is in breach of rule 185.

There are other Highway Code rules which help but nothing seems to quite fix the problem:

Rule 185 Clause 3

When reaching the roundabout you should watch out for all other road users already on the roundabout; be aware they may not be signalling correctly or at all

But "watch out for" is not as strong as "give priority to".

Rule 187 Clause 2

In all cases watch out for and give plenty of room to traffic crossing in front of you on the roundabout, especially vehicles intending to leave by the next exit

Even if this is relevant, "watch out for" / "give plenty of room to" are again weak directives compared to "give priority to".

  1. Overview This section should be read by all drivers, motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders. The rules in The Highway Code do not give you the right of way in any circumstance, but they advise you when you should give way to others. Always give way if it can help to avoid an incident.

"Always give way if it can help to avoid an incident" is helpful, but does it trump "give priority to traffic approaching from your right"?

The fact that, "The rules ... do not give you the right of way ... but they advise you when you should give way", might be the solution if it weren't for the fact that the 'give priority' rule is used to apportion blame where there is no independent witness despite compelling but disputable material evidence.

Have I missed a rule? Have I missed the point? Or is the Highway Code flawed in this respect?

closed as off-topic by Flimzy, Karlson, Gagravarr, Kate Gregory, Rory Alsop Aug 25 '14 at 17:22

  • This question does not appear to be about traveling within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 5
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is details of local traffic laws. – Flimzy Aug 25 '14 at 15:21
  • 1
    Explain what, exactly? – Flimzy Aug 25 '14 at 16:03
  • 1
    Because this is a web site about travel, and your question isn't about travel. – Flimzy Aug 25 '14 at 16:05
  • 3
    We have a general concept that a question is off-topic if it's about something a local would understand. There are a few notable exceptions on issues which strike travelers especially hard. How to use a round-about isn't especially hard (for travelers or locals, IMO) – Flimzy Aug 25 '14 at 16:29
  • 11
    The traffic approaching from the right is the traffic in the roundabout! – Michael Hampton Aug 25 '14 at 17:13

You're viewing the code in your mind incorrectly. For any individual driver in a vehicle, there is the road they are on, and there is the roundabout, period. You don't consider any of the other roads. Your intersection is the one the road you are on to the roundabout.

As illustrated, the intersection is not the entire round-about (left), but only where your road intersects the round-about (right), which makes it behave just like any other intersection.

enter image description here

Now that I've described it, how do you feel about the code, as written? If there is a vehicle on the roundabout, it will either be ahead of your intersection (to the left of you) and you can 'disregard it'; or it will be across the roundabout from you (in front of you) and you can (see below*) 'disregard it'; or it will be coming up to your intersection (to your right), in which case the car already on the roundabout has priority.

*Note if it is a small round, or the speed is great, you may have to consider a vehicle technically in front of you, as coming from your right, which it will be very soon. That is part of driving defensively.

Look at it this way. Let us suppose you have two roads, Apple Street and Pear Road. They each carry two way traffic. They cross each other. At the intersection of Apple St. and Pear Rd. there is a four way stop. Four cars pull up, one in each direction. Each road segment has three possible directions of continuing traffic flow. Left turn, right turn, and straight ahead.

Now, let's say that the designers decide to put a roundabout in that intersection. Each part of Apple St ends in a stop sign at the round. Each part of Pear Rd. also ends in a stop sign. Four cars pull up to the stop signs. How many directions can each car go from the stop? One and only one. To the left. If each car is fully stopped, in my example, how many cars are approaching each of the four intersections from the right? None. Each intersection is essentially a T, with one way traffic across the top. All four cars could go. Let's say only one goes around its corner to the left. Now there is one car on the roundabout and as it approaches each of the remaining intersections, it will be the car on the right.

The hard part about roundabouts, and why they ABSOLUTELY suck rocks.... Is that even with stop signs (and they are usually yields, not stops) a roundabout almost always forces merging, and today's youth simply seem to not be taught that skill.

I sincerely hope this helps you.

  • 2
    If there is traffic on the roundabout approaching you from the left, I recommend extreme care, because there is a driver who either doesn't know what they are doing, is drunk, or doesn't care one bit about traffic rules. – gnasher729 Aug 25 '14 at 15:45
  • 5
    @AlanQ: The problem is that you're thinking of the entire round-about as an intersection. You shouldn't. Think of the round-about as a road of its own, and the intersection is where your road meets the other road (round-about). In this sense, all the traffic in the round-about is approaching from the right. 100% of the time. – Flimzy Aug 25 '14 at 16:31
  • 3
    @CGCampbell: No answer is complete without hand-drawn graphics, so I added some. Feel free to remove them if you wish :P – Flimzy Aug 25 '14 at 18:55
  • 1
    @Flimzy oh man, I saw that and almost spit out some coke... that's precious and I like it. GTG. – CGCampbell Aug 25 '14 at 19:02
  • 1
    @gnasher729 Unless it is the "Magic Roundabout" in Swindon, where the inner ring runs counter clockwise while the outer one runs clockwise (Which actually does make sense per the Highway code, the thing is a ring of mini roundabouts). Confusing (but actually very safe because everyone is so scared of the damn thing that nobody drives it fast enough to have a serious collision). – Dan Mills Jan 3 at 20:47

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.