Round and around and around we went like a merry-go-round stuck on go, except we didn’t find a brass ring. We were on an Irish rotary just like an American roundabout where the intersection was built in the shape of a circle. It allowed traffic to drive in one direction around that circle with the right-of-way given to traffic inside the circle.

We couldn’t enjoy the scenery because we felt like someone had spun us like a top. Driving on what I termed the wrong side of the road felt strange. It also felt like we were revolving around an axis without an exit. We must have driven in circles for days before we learned how to escape. Whenever we approached a roundabout, my heart skipped a beat, and I knew that I needed to head straight for the closest bathroom. Roundabouts and rotaries are similar to a merry-go-round because they both offer a place for people to ride, but only one is used for amusement.

They’re springing up everywhere because they’re cheaper to operate, and they reduce bottlenecking and traffic accidents more than intersections with electric traffic lights. Except for drivers who are new to roundabouts, the experience is quick and easy. For some drivers, entering a roundabout for the first time could feel as complicated as assembling a jigsaw puzzle blindfolded.

A roundabout means to yield to traffic entering from the right. A positive side, different from a traditional intersection, is that traffic can generally continue moving at 15 to 20 mph.

Drivers can enter roundabouts after looking to the left to make sure it’s safe to proceed. If the roundabout is a multi-lane, drivers might want to pin their driver’s license to their car seat and run down the road screaming wildly. When my wife was a passenger on the 12 lane Champs-Élysées rotary around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris a few years ago, she closed her eyes and prayed. I love her dearly, and it’s my sincere hope that it won’t be long before she says amen and opens her eyes.

On any multi-lane roundabout, it’s important to yield to each lane. If drivers are turning right or going straight, they should use the right-hand lane. If the intent is to turn left, the left lane should be used. There should always be arrows painted in the road and signs above or beside the road that will help choose which lane to navigate. Just like pulling out of a parking lot onto a four-lane highway, drivers have to yield to all lanes.

It just makes perfect sense that large trucks need more space for turning movements. Drivers can reduce the danger of driving close to them by allowing them more space than they would a passenger vehicle. Changing lanes while on a multi-lane roundabout is dangerous and should be done as a last resort.

Using turn signals when approaching an exit on a roundabout is required just like they’re required when approaching a turn on a traditional road. A turn signal gives other drivers advanced options to decide how to make safe maneuvers. If confronted by an emergency vehicle operating lights and siren, drivers shouldn’t stop until they’ve exited.

Stopping in the middle of a roundabout is as smart as sleeping in the road. They’re designed for traffic to move continuously, so a stopped car disrupts the flow of traffic. It also increases the possibility of being involved in a traffic accident.

If someone is a naturalist and prefers using a two-wheel vehicle, here’s a couple of good points. Since a bicycle is considered a vehicle in Georgia, all two-wheel people transporters should stay in the center of their lane. This increases visibility and reduces the possibility of being cut off by another vehicle. If bicyclists feel awkward using a roundabout, they can always push their bicycle across a crosswalk.

Roundabouts can be found in rural, exurbs, suburbs and urban areas. When approaching a yellow “roundabout ahead” sign, there really isn’t a reason to panic. Many drivers get that deer in the headlight feeling when they approach a roundabout, but studies show that once those drivers use them, they enjoy them. Confusion about their safety and how to use them goes away rather quickly. Drivers may initially favor traffic signals or stop signs, but they eventually recognize that roundabouts allow them to continue moving in a safe manner. Whether a novice or a pro, driving into a roundabout means slowdown, look and think before entering.

Charlie Sewell is a retired Powder Springs police chief. Email him at retiredchiefsewell@gmail.com.

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