Another round with the rules for driving in roundabouts

Traffic talk

October 02, 2005|By JODY K. VILSCHICK

Roundabouts drive some Maryland motorists crazy. Contrary to the opinions I usually hear about, roundabouts were designed to enhance safety at intersections and reduce delays in traffic at intersections. And that would be the case if drivers knew how to drive through them.

Rich Zwolinski, a resident of the Odenton-Gambrills area, is more of a fan of roundabouts but is not a fan of clueless drivers. He noted that he regularly encounters several roundabouts that replaced traffic signals on roads in the Odenton area.

"I have noticed an increase in accidents, near misses and just plain poor driving. Do you think you can reiterate to the ignorant how to properly drive in a circle that has multiple lanes?" he asked.

First, it's time to put aside our fear of the circle.

I like the roundabouts and believe they are safer than traditional intersections - if drivers don't stop at mid-circle, as misguided motorists periodically do, to wave in vehicles waiting their turn to traverse the roundabout.

These misguided motorists - I encounter one every few months, it seems - ignore the signs commanding incoming drivers to yield to motorists in the roundabout. (You can lead a driver to the intersection, but you can't make him or her read the signs.)

The basic rule of roundabouts is simple: Incoming drivers yield to vehicles in the roundabout.

You need to signal as you approach roundabouts, just as you would for a traditional four-way intersection. (In too many cases, that means drivers won't signal at all.)

As you approach the roundabout, reduce your speed and keep to the right of the center island. Move up to the yield line and wait for an acceptable gap in traffic. Do not enter next to someone in the roundabout, because that motorist might be getting off at the next exit.

If you're turning right, use only the right lane if there are multiple approach lanes, unless posted otherwise; use your right-turn signal. If you intend to go straight, you can use either lane if there are two approach lanes; do not use any turn signals. For left turns, use your left-turn signal and enter the roundabout in one of the left--hand lanes (if there are two approach lanes) and move into the right lane just before your exit.

Once you are in the roundabout, don't stop except to avoid a collision; you have the right of way over entering drivers. Stopping mid-circle to wave a waiting driver into the circle is misguided courtesy at best and dangerous always. Don't pass other vehicles or bicyclists when in the roundabout.

When you have passed the exit before the one you intend to take, move into the right lane. Use your right-turn signal and continue to use your right-turn signal through your exit. When exiting from the inside lane, watch out for leading or adjacent vehicles on the outside that intend to continue to circulate around the roundabout.

For more information, go to oundabouts/index.asp.

A different picture

James Howard responded to last week's column, which discussed the possibly suspicious activity of some men who one reader believed were photographing cars last month along Route 32. Howard suggested that the men's motives for taking photographs were far from nefarious.

"Do not discount the possibility that they work for a civil, structural, or highway engineering firm, and are taking pictures for possible bids, to show their work to other clients, or for their company's files or literature," he said. He noted that civil and highway engineers are an important part of maintaining Maryland's infrastructure, "especially in a county of enthusiastic drivers, such as Howard County."

"Engineers are instrumental in inspecting and maintaining roadways," he said. Taking photographs of an area could be part of this process.

Cell phone crackdown

Teenagers need to turn off their cell phones while driving. Starting yesterday, several new traffic laws targeting teen drivers in Maryland took effect, including one that bans the use of cell phones and other electronic devices for drivers younger than age 18 with learner's permits. The new laws also bar anyone other than family members from riding with a driver holding a provisional driver's license. Other changes include an increase from four to six months and an increase from 40 to 60 hours of driving practice before a driver holding a learner's permit is eligible for a provisional license.

What are your favorite roads in Howard County? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 30 Corporate Center, 10440 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 820, Columbia, 21044. Please include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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