Four months in to my stay in New Zealand, I was astonished to learn that turn signals should be used in roundabouts.
I had been listening to a talk show on the radio in which callers discussed their greatest annoyances. One person said that she became annoyed “when people don’t use turn signals in roundabouts.”
My first thought was, “You’re supposed to do that? Oops.”
I was in Christchurch at the time so had plenty of opportunities to observe the execution of this new driving task. I also consulted with Kiwi friends on this important matter.
As I did so, I began pondering how Americans go around roundabouts: rather haphazardly.
There aren’t many roundabouts about, but the ones that do exist tend to stress us out. We just go and hope that no one else is going and complain later about the experience.
Therefore, I call for a revolutionary action to make life easier when using roundabouts:
Use turn signals.
It is a confusing concept at first: Why would I switch on a turn signal when I am just going in a circle? I’m not really turning anywhere, I’m just following a curve.
No worries. Here is how to execute a passage through a roundabout using turn signals:
When taking the first exit (effectively changing direction to travel down a new road on the right)
Switch on the turn signal as you approach the roundabout to indicate to the right. This lets people who are entering the roundabout from the road to which you are about to turn know it is safe to proceed into the roundabout, even while you are taking that exit.
When taking the second exit (effectively continuing on the original trajectory)
A turn signal is not necessary until your vehicle has passed the first exit. Immediately after passing the first exit road, activate the turn signal to indicate to the right so that drivers who are waiting on you will know they can move along.
When taking the third exit of the roundabout (effectively changing direction to travel down a new road on the left)
The turn signal should be blinking to the left as you approach the roundabout. This allows people who are waiting at the first and second exits to know that they should delay entrance into the roundabout. They will not make assumptions about the vehicle’s trajectory and haphazardly move forward. They will now know for certain where you are going.
Think of the roundabout as a four-way stop without the stop signs. Always yield to the person on the left, and use the turn signal to indicate where you’re going. The first exit turns to the right. The third exit turns to the left. It takes some time to become accustomed to how much of a gap is needed before entering the roundabout, so be cautious, but don’t miss an opportunity. In the same way that turning right on red helps save fuel, turn signals and moving confidently through roundabouts are good for traffic flow and economics.
With these steps, driving through roundabouts can cease to be the stressful experience Americans currently encounter.