We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Roundabouts the wave of the future

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist April 22, 2011

Signs on the pavement are intended to help drivers navigate their way along the new $24-million McTavish interchange. Photograph by: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist

There has been so much confusion about the new triple roundabouts on the way to Victoria International Airport that the topic deserves a mention.

I took a spin on the brand new freeway of frustration myself, after attending the Old English Car Show on Sunday. Despite my best preparatory efforts, I still missed the exit to return to Victoria and had to circle one more time before I got it right and headed home to Fairhaven, in Fairfield.

Why are so many drivers so upset by a simple series of roundabouts? Watching Gordie Tupper of CHEK News yell out the window at a driver who came to a complete stop, in a total state of surrender, was entertaining if not educational.

But when I saw my favourite CHEK personality, Stacey Ross, look dazed and confused, with a touch of the incredulous, while addressing the topic of this new municipal monster of a motorway, I knew it was time for me to pontificate.

Here are the easy-to remember reminders for traffic circles and roundabouts.

It is not necessary to signal to enter a roundabout. It is the law that a right signal must be made to leave. Roundabouts reduce the need for traffic to come to a complete stop.

Drivers should merge without having to stop. Look at the space that you wish to occupy when merging with traffic in the circle. The space is bigger than a vehicle, and it is moving along at the same speed as the vehicles and is easier to judge.

The vehicle closest to the centre of the roundabout has the right to leave whenever the opportunity presents itself. There is an unwritten procedure, which works very well all over the world, when traffic slows. It is acceptable and encouraged to merge alternately in such a situation.

When entering the roundabout, be mindful of the rookie drivers who will hesitate or stop at the very moment you check the left shoulder, looking for a space to enter. The rear-end crash is very predictable in this scenario.

Look where you want to go. Follow the signs, lines and pavement markings to the destination of your choice. If you miss your exit, simply go around again and get it right the second time. The advantage of a roundabout is that it can serve as a perfectly legal and safe way to do a U-turn. There is little threat of a head-on crash, the most deadly crash of all.

There will be new roundabouts all across Canada in future years. The reason is obvious. Municipalities everywhere are looking at ways to save money and keep tax increases at bay. They want to have safer intersection traffic flow, as well. Roundabouts are the solution to reduce both capital and operating costs. Cities want to keep traffic moving. It is good for the economy and the environment when vehicles are not idling while waiting for a light to change.

The triple-headed roundabout at McTavish Road is poorly signed. The pavement markings look more like a monopoly game than a guide for a first-class construction project. It is yet to be completed. Let’s hope remedial action will be taken ASAP: A triple bypass is supposed to remedy a heart attack, not cause one.

Steve Wallace is a member of the College of Teachers and the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and the Interior of B.C.

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