A Circle of Confusion

How many times have you arrived at a traffic circle and are met with confused faces staring at you from over a steering wheel? One person goes, another stops, another zooms past giving you a not-so-complimentary look and before you know it, 10 minutes have passed and you still haven’t moved.

There is an endless list of names that have been given to these horrifying circular structures – roundabouts, mini roundabouts, big traffic circles, little traffic circles and even rotaries. The purpose of a traffic circle is to assist with traffic flow and reduce the likelihood of head-on and broadside collisions. In South Africa, two types of traffic circles exist – the Mini-Circle and the larger Roundabout.

Let’s take a look at the different circles that exist and the correct manner in which to proceed around them.

The Mini Circle – a Regulatory ‘Control’ sign

The Mini Circle – a Regulatory ‘Control’ sign

These are usually found in residential, small urban or suburban areas. It can be identified by the yellow and white small painted island in the middle of the intersection – usually in the form of a raised hump.

The first vehicle to cross the line has the right of way. Slow down and give way to other vehicles that cross any Yield line before you do. Proceed in a clockwise direction around the painted island.

Roundabouts – a Regulatory ‘Command’ sign

Roundabouts – a Regulatory ‘Command’ sign

A roundabout is a larger traffic circle. Some have several lanes around the centre island.

When you find yourself in a roundabout, give way to traffic already in the circle that is approaching you from your right. At some roundabouts, you may see a Priority Road sign as you approach. This means that the road you are travelling on has priority over traffic within the circle – you have the right of way and traffic already in the circle must give way to you.

General rules

Whether driving around a mini-circle or roundabout, its important to apply common-sense, courtesy and caution. Always travel in a clockwise direction within the traffic circle.