AA Legal Eagle: Traffic Circles – What are the Rules?

11 February 2013:

For the majority of motorists, one of the most confusing driving laws is the correct use of a traffic circle. In fact, many motorists do not know that there is a difference between the larger traffic circles and the mini traffic circles, besides their size. Can you really be frustrated if someone cuts you off at a traffic circle if you don’t know the rules? The Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) provides you with the important differences and rules of traffic circles.

Firstly what is the difference between the two circles? A traffic circle is classified as large when it has a minimum diameter of around 16 metres and a 1.5 to 2 metre flattened curb which allows heavy vehicles to drive onto a small section of the circle. A mini traffic circle is normally not more than 7 to 10 metres in diameter and the entire circle is mountable for heavy vehicles.

Are there differing rules for each?

“The rule of thumb is that mini traffic circles, which are usually found in residential areas, have the same rules as a four-way stop – first come first served. For larger traffic circles, which are usually found at busy crossings to assist with the flow of traffic, you need to give way to the right,” says the Automobile Association of South Africa.

Rules to remember at a large traffic circle:

  • As you arrive at a large traffic circle, traffic coming from your right has right of way, regardless of how many cars there are.
  • Wait until there is s a gap in the traffic and then ease off slowly into the circle.
  • Watch out for other traffic in the circle and be aware that they may not be using their indicators.
  • Use your indicator to signal when you are going to turn – switch it on immediately after passing the exit prior to the one you intend taking.  
  • If you are taking the first exit, i.e. you’re turning left, then flick on your left indicator and keep in the outside/left-hand lane.
  • Keeping in the outside/left-hand lane also works well if you’re continuing straight ahead as your exit is very close. After you’ve passed the left turn exit and yours is next, signal left and you’re free.
  • If you’re turning right or performing a U-turn, keep in the inside/right-hand lane. Only signal left and change into the left-hand lane once you’ve passed the other exits and only yours is ahead.
Rules to remember at a mini traffic circle:
  • The first vehicle to cross the line has the right of way, so it really works on the same principle as a four-way stop or yield sign.
  • Proceed in a clockwise direction around the circle, without driving on it.

Automobile Association of South Africa (AA)
011 799 1126

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