Who has priority when entering the traffic circle?

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When did this start, that traffic circles have become the state of the art of traffic routing? No matter. They keep traffic flowing. And although the rules that apply there should have gotten around by now, there are still ambiguities. Or is it rather the ignorance of many drivers that is annoying?

Some turn left when entering a traffic circle, others don’t turn left when leaving it, and who has the right of way anyway?

Lack of clarity about how to behave appropriately before or in a traffic circle increases the risk of accidents: around eight percent of all accidents involving personal injury in the vicinity of intersections occur at traffic circles in open country and about six percent at those in local areas. Due to the lower speed, accidents in traffic circles are usually relatively minor, but they should not happen in the first place.

A normal intersection?

Many drivers do not realize that a traffic circle is a “normal intersection,” which is only different in appearance,” explains Nikolaus Authried, head of the ÖAMTC legal department. Accordingly, the usual rules for intersections also apply to traffic circles. “The StVO does not provide for any special regulations here. Even the mandatory sign common in other countries – a blue-filled circle with white arrows in the direction of travel – does not exist in Austria.”

So, who has priority when entering the traffic circle?

“Since the traffic circle is treated like a normal intersection, the right-hand rule applies, so those entering the traffic circle have priority as those coming from the right,” says the legal advisor. “However, at many traffic circles, the general right-hand priority is supplanted by a ‘give way’ sign – so those entering have ‘right of way.'” Drivers in the circle may not be forced to brake suddenly or swerve. “However, precisely because in practice the rule of law often does not apply due to signage on the spot, it means being attentive and paying individual attention to the priority situation at each traffic circle,” Authried says. Necessary: It may even be that the priority situation at the individual junctions at the exact traffic circle is regulated differently!

When and where do you have to signal?

Many drivers do not signal when leaving the traffic circle. Compared to “normal” intersections, there are almost four times as many “non-blinkers” in traffic circles. The expert clarifies: “The StVO stipulates that a change of direction must be indicated so that other road users can adjust to it. So anyone intending to leave a traffic circle must indicate this in good time.”

However, there are different opinions among people behind the wheel about what “in time” means. It would be best if you signalled so early that the next person who wants to enter the traffic circle already knows he can do so before the one in the traffic circle turns. Tapping the turn signal briefly while turning is not enough.

In countries such as Spain, it is customary to turn left when entering the traffic circle if you want to leave it after three-quarters of the way around, i.e., to the left. This is not provided for in this country and can lead to confusion.

Who has the right of way at guard lanes and bike crossings?

“It is not uncommon for a protective lane or bike lane to cross the entrances and exits of a traffic circle. Here, it’s important to allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross without obstruction or danger,” says the lawyer.

What must be observed in a multi-lane traffic circle?

Existing road markings must be followed in any case: “It is often the case that drivers entering the traffic circle from the far right lane are immediately diverted out of the traffic circle at the next possible exit – this is intended to ensure a better traffic flow. It is therefore important to get into the right lane when entering the roundabout so that it is only necessary to change lanes again when exiting – and not in the middle of it,” Authried states. “If you do have to change lanes within the traffic circle spontaneously, it’s important not to endanger or obstruct anyone in the process – plus, it’s also called: ‘Please signal.’

Caution: If there is a ‘Give way’ sign when entering a multi-lane traffic circle, the waiting requirement applies – regardless of whether anyone else in the circle is currently using the inside or outside lane.”

How long is a speed limit posted directly in front of the traffic circle in effect?

“If a permissible maximum speed is prescribed in front of a traffic circle and signposted accordingly, this speed limit generally applies until the driver leaves this stretch of road, i.e. enters the traffic circle,” explains the lawyer. The situation may be different if the traffic circle is not a “real traffic circle” but a kind of “middle island,” which is why there is no turning into another road or – to put it another way – the original road continues through and after the traffic circle.

“In the case of zone restrictions, recognizable by the addition of ‘Zone’ below the announced maximum speed, the following applies: the established speed limit continues to exist after entering the traffic circle until it is lifted again by means of signage,” Authried adds.

What to do if you miss the right exit?

Anyone who fails to exit the traffic circle at the scheduled exit may drive another lap. Under no circumstances should you back up or even turn around in the traffic circle.

The bottom line, however, is that it is essential to know and follow the rules and drive in a way that results in the smoothest and most expeditious flow possible. That means:

Being alert enough to take advantage of a gap when pulling in.
Remaining friendly and not tailgating.
You are flashing your lights to comply with the rule and to actively let others know that you want to take the next exit.

  • Source: krone.at/picture:
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