From my experience as a driving instructor the mere mention of a roundabouts lesson (or even a single roundabout) strikes fear into the heart of even the most confident learner driver. Why is this the case? After all, a learner has been around thousands of roundabouts as a passenger.
I think there are key factors at play here, not least that there is a fear of having an accident. This fear is irrational as the driving instructor should always have assessed their learners ability before embarking on a roundabouts lesson. Even if the learner does make a mistake then the driving instructor is experienced and trained to deal with such situations and can always, as a last resort, use the dual controls in order to keep everyone safe.The second fear that I often am told from my students is that one of their friends or family members has had an accident at a roundabout and that it has mentally effected them in some way.
These mental issues should not be ignored. Often an accident in the past can effect someone in the present. I have had experience on this on many occasions where an event or even a sound has brought back buried memories of a traumatic incident in the past. This incident might have happened years ago but the trauma is very real. I am not medically trained but through my experiences talking this through with the student and giving them access to professionals who can help is vital here in overcoming worries in the present.
It is, however, unfortunately a fact that a disproportionate amount of incidents happen at roundabouts and I am going to outline some of the key reasons as to why below:
1- Poor awareness to what’s around you
The most common of all accidents at a roundabout is a rear shunt. This usually occurs when entering a roundabout. If you are the second car in the queue to enter the roundabout you are looking for a gap into which you want to slot in but you must be aware of the actions of the car in front of you. This might seem obvious but if you have seen your gap on a busy roundabout it is easy to assume the car ahead has taken the gap you think it will take. The driver ahead might not be paying attention, may be distracted or might not be a confident driver so you can never assume they will go ahead of you. If you are not aware what they are doing then it is easy to go into the back of them. Stay aware at all times.
2- Poor decision making
Too many people gamble by taking a gap that isn’t there when entering a roundabout. How do we know what a safe gap is? The simple rule is to treat the roundabout like a clock where 12 o’clock is straight ahead of you. To enter safely you need to make sure no vehicle is in the 3 o’clock to 6 o’clock zone which is coming in your direction. If this zone is clear then it is safe to enter the roundabout.
3- Lane discipline
When you are on a roundabout it is easy to have tunnel vision as to where you want to go. As a result it is easy to cross lanes and thus potentially interfere with other cars on the roundabout. Don’t straight line a roundabout whilst going straight ahead. It’s a roundabout, not a straight-about. Stay in your lane.
4 – Poor mirror usage
When exiting a roundabout too few drivers check their left mirror before starting to exit. If you don’t check this mirror you are running the risk of cutting across a motorbike that might be on your left. Never assume that nothing is there. You will sense if there is a big lorry there for example but you wont pickup motorbikes in your peripheral vision. Ask yourself ‘where’s the bike?’ and you will be sure to look.
Overall if taught well roundabouts are as safe and as simple as any other junction. Be sure to listen to your driving instructor as the safest way to do them and you will be safe for life.