If you've traveled through any of the roundabouts in the Hudson Valley, you've probably broken the law.

We've seen more and more of these traffic circles replacing busy intersections throughout the region. There's no doubt that they've relieved lots of congestion on the road and made it much quicker to get from place to place. Unfortunately, most drivers don't know the rules of the roundabout and are creating an unsafe situation for other cars on the road.

There are basically two types of roundabouts being built in the Hudson Valley; the large traffic circles that replace traffic lights with several exits and entrances and the smaller ones that have taken the place of stop signs where only a few roads intersect.

Regardless of the size, drivers are supposed to follow the same rules when entering and exiting a roundabout. By observing any Hudson Valley traffic circle for just a few minutes it's clear that no one knows what these rules actually are.

When entering a roundabout the rules are pretty self-explanatory. Drivers should yield to the traffic already in the circle before entering. That doesn't seem to be a problem, as most drivers instinctively look to the left to see if anyone is coming around the bend before entering a roundabout. The problem arises when those cars decide to exit the circle.

The New York State Department of Transportation is very clear in their instructions on how to properly exit a roundabout.

Exiting the Roundabout:

  • Once you have entered the roundabout, proceed counter-clockwise to your exit. You now have the right-of-way
  • As you approach your exit, turn on your right turn signal
  • Exit the roundabout, yielding to pedestrians in the crosswalk.

It's the second rule that seems to have people confused. When exiting a roundabout you must turn on your right turn signal. From my own experience, I can tell you that practically no one does this. Not only is it dangerous, but it's also extremely frustrating for other drivers that are trying to enter a traffic circle.

Not using your signal, even in one of the smaller roundabouts, causes a major problem for pedestrians trying to cross and cars attempting to enter the circle. Since no one signals, everyone just assumes that the cars will be taking the more popular exit of the circle and not traveling completely around. When someone does have to use the circle as a U-turn or go around longer than usual it takes everyone by surprise. If all drivers used their turn signal every time they exited a circle it would be crystal clear who is exiting and who is continuing to travel inside the circle.

Also, there's nothing worse than waiting to enter a busy roundabout and having all of the approaching cars exiting without using a signal. I can't be the only one who's sat there like an idiot waiting to go when the cars wind up just exiting anyway. It's not only frustrating but completely misses the point of the circle, which is to keep the flow of traffic moving at all times.

So. the next time you find yourself in a roundabout, even if it's a small one, please follow the law and use your signal when exiting. It will make all of our lives much easier and keep traffic moving the way it should.

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