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Before you’re able to tackle the larger roundabouts in the UK, you’ll first need to get to grips with the mini-roundabout. Mini-roundabouts are mainly found in residential areas and on some country lanes. They were designed to help reduce the number of accidents at junctions where drivers are known to ignore the give way road markings. Although the mini roundabout can be safer than the standard, T-junction, they present their own problem. Many learner drivers – and full licence holders – do not know the sequence of priority or when to signal and this lack of understanding has led to a number of road traffic incidents on mini-roundabouts.
Why do we have mini-roundabouts
The vast majority of mini-roundabouts are found in quiet residential areas. Often when two or more roads meet, a mini-roundabout is used to help traffic flow much easier in all directions. Crossroads and junctions can make it harder for motorists who have to give way to traffic on the higher priority roads and mini-roundabouts make it much easier for all traffic to progress.
If you are a novice driver and are taking driving lessons for the first time, you will spend your first few hours of training on residential roads in your local area. Your time on these roads will be spent getting used to the car working on things such as moving off and stopping, using the POM driving routine, driving in different directions using the MSM driving routine and learning how to change gears and use the clutch pedal. You are likely to tackle basic crossroads, junctions and mini-roundabouts before moving onto trickier subjects.
Blue signs without a red border generally provide positive instruction. A broken circle on a blue background is the mini-roundabout road sign. Once you identify the sign you should begin your preparation for this particular type of junction. In built-up residential areas you will find the sign located on the side of the road, normally in an elevated position to help motorists identify the sign in good time.
Advantages of mini-roundabouts
Mini roundabouts have several advantages over the traditional t-junction and they are often preferred in busy areas with a high volume of traffic.
Mini-roundabouts give equal priority to traffic travelling in all directions. Equal priority helps traffic flow more freely and this is great during busy periods such as rush hour.
As traffic is able to flow more freely in either direction, motorists spend less time queuing. Less time spent waiting is good for the bank balance as you don’t waste fuel, and it’s also good for the environment, as it reduces your carbon footprint too. Also, when the road is quiet, traffic doesn’t need to wait as there are no traffic lights.
As traffic travelling from each direction has to give way to the right, mini-roundabouts can often reduce accidents at t-junctions with reduced visibility.
Choice of lane and signal
The main difference between a major roundabout and a mini one is that in most cases, there is only one lane to approach and exit from, making the latter easier to deal with compared to the former. When approaching a mini-roundabout, treat it similar to a normal roundabout. Signal left if you intend on turning in that direction, signalling right if you intend on turning right and when travelling ahead, no signal should be applied.
Use the MSM driving routine when leaving the roundabout, and check for potential hazards such as pedestrian crossings as you exit. Perform one final look in your mirrors as you enter the new road to update your information. As is the case on the larger versions of this junction, you need to give priority to vehicles on your right, while taking priority from the vehicles on your left. If you intend on turning right on a mini-roundabout it’s important you signal on approach due to the limited amount of space on the road. You could cause an accident if you do not inform other road users of your intentions.
Speed and gear
Matching your speed with the road situation should be your priority when tackling this type of junction. If the road is clear and there are no vehicles to your right, approach in second gear, with the aim of entering and exiting the roundabout without stopping. If your visibility is reduced and there are vehicles approaching from your right, select gear one, slow down before the give way line and enter the roundabout once it is safe to do so.
Mini-roundabouts and other road users
Due to limited space around mini-roundabouts, large vehicles take up a lot of space and this can easily cause an accident. Large vehicles such as lorries and buses are legally allowed to go over the central markings and you need to give them as much space as they need to enter and exit the road. If you get too close to a large vehicle, you could fail your driving test. You should also be aware of pedestrians crossings at the entrance or exit to the roundabout.
Look out for motorcycles and cyclists can be hard to spot and pay attention to vehicles using incorrect signals. Remember, always wait to see what the other vehicle does, do not rely on their signal.
It is very common to come across a double mini-roundabout and you will often find these in very built-up residential areas, where several busy roads meet. At first they can be slightly confusing, however, they are relatively simple to negotiate once you get the hang of things. The key is to treat each section independently and on its own merit. Once you have safely navigated the first section, look into the new road, glance to your right to see if there are any vehicles you need to give priority to and then tackle the second roundabout in exactly the same manner as you did the first.
Mini-roundabout driving tips
Chances are you will come across a mini-roundabout on your driving test and it is important to understand how to tackle this particular type of road, to ensure you are well prepared on the day of your test. Here are a few of our top driving test tips for dealing with this particular junction.
Approach with caution
Mini-roundabouts are small, and they can creep up on you if you aren’t paying attention. Look out for the relevant sign and when approaching a closed mini-roundabout, select a low gear – i.e first gear – and proceed with caution. It can be hard to spot vehicles on your right-hand side especially when there are nearby obstructions so remain vigilant.
Signal when turning right
If you plan on turning right, always apply a signal on approach as there is less time for other approaching vehicles to react. Remember, it’s important for you to inform other road users of your intentions.
Look out for incorrect signals
Due to the tight nature of these roads, you will often find some vehicles not signalling correctly and this can lead to accidents. Observe each vehicle in your vicinity and make sure their body positioning matches their signal before proceeding.
Use the MSM routine
As you would on a major roundabout, ensure you use the MSM routine before entering and when exiting a mini-roundabout. Use to the routine to check for potential hazards as you drive.
Learn the rules
Rule 159 to 203 of the Highway code covers the rules for both types of roundabouts. It’s well worth familiarising yourself with each of the rules, as this will give you a thorough understanding of what you can and can’t do at this junction.