Question: I see more roundabouts and wonder what is the rule using them. I yield to drivers, but they do not let me know if their are turning or keep going around. I always signal when I’m exiting.
— Thanks, Ron I., Spanaway
Answer: The first rule of roundabouts is to use caution, because you can’t expect all your fellow drivers to be masters of roundabout etiquette.
American drivers are still getting used to roundabouts, which were imported after decades of use in Europe, notably England and France.
They’re coming into wider use largely because of safety. According to Transportation Research Board data, accidents are less common at roundabouts than at any other conventional intersection except an all-way stop, for which the figures are similar.
They can be even safer if you — and every other driver — learn the basics, which the state Department of Transportation outlines at wsdot.wa.gov/Safety/roundabouts with video instructions.
Slow down as you drive up to a roundabout and watch for pedestrians crossing from directions you aren’t used to seeing. Look left and yield to traffic in the roundabout. When it’s safe, enter and drive until your exit is the next one. And, like at every other turn you make on every other public road, use your turn signal when exiting.
This skill set will get more useful in future drives around the South Sound as engineers install more roundabouts.
“The safety and mobility benefits of roundabouts make them an attractive option in those locations where the available space and other factors allow their consideration,” city of Tacoma traffic engineer Josh Diekmann said.
You could soon encounter a prominent new roundabout at the entrance to Point Defiance Park. Tacoma and Ruston planners, with other agencies, are designing one to improve the flow of cars, bicycles and pedestrians to and from the park and ferry terminal, Diekmann said.