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Advice for safely and legally maneuvering a roundabout

Until fairly recently, most Americans hadn't encountered a roundabout unless they traveled abroad. For most people, the first experience at a roundabout doesn't go as badly as it did for Clark Griswold in the movie National Lampoon's European Vacation when he circled a London roundabout for hours -- unable to figure out how to get out. However, it can be a confusing and even frightening experience -- in any country.

Roundabouts are becoming more common in the U.S. They can be found throughout the country -- and Mississippi has a number of them. Since they keep traffic flowing continuously, they reduce the need for stopping, which minimizes gasoline use and the number of traffic lights and signs. According to an official with the Mississippi Department of Transportation, "Studies have shown that roundabouts can reduce overall collisions by 37 percent and can reduce fatality collisions by 90 percent."

Most crashes that do occur at roundabouts are caused by people who don't know who has the right-of-way or don't understand which lane they need to be in to get where they're going. Mississippi's driver's handbook addresses roundabouts (also known as traffic circles). However, if you're not a new driver or haven't needed to take a driving test recently, you may not know what the rules are.

Following are some important things to remember:

  • Watch for pedestrian crossings just before the roundabout. Pedestrians have the right of way.
  • When approaching a roundabout, always yield to traffic already inside it. Traffic will be coming from the left.
  • Enter the roundabout when there's a break in traffic, and keep moving. You should never stop inside a roundabout except in an emergency.
  • You will be traveling toward the right, but use the lane that allows you to exit where you need to. For example, if you're going to be continuing straight ahead, use the outer right lane.
  • Avoid changing lanes inside the roundabout.
  • Be patient. Once you've got the hang of it, don't forget that it could be someone else's first time in a roundabout. They don't need frustrated drivers honking and making them more nervous.

If you're involved in a crash in or near a roundabout that was caused by another driver, make sure you seek the compensation you need for medical expenses and other costs and damages.

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