Uncertain about rules of the roundabout

| 19/05/2016

Can you settle an argument in our house, please? Is it OK to change lanes while you’re going round a roundabout?

Auntie’s answer: The answer is a definite no. Once you are in the roundabout, you should stay in your lane until exiting. However, based on what I have seen from drivers in Cayman, there seems to be quite a lot of confusion about which lane you should be in from the start.

The rules of the roundabout are straightforward, so I am not sure why many drivers seem unable to transfer those rules to actual road conditions. Allow me to try to explain, in as simple terms as I can, the proper way to navigate through a roundabout.

I think the most important rule is that you always give way to the right when attempting to enter a roundabout. Too often it seems people are confused by this rule, especially on single-lane roundabouts which they seem to treat like a four-way stop, waiting for their supposed turn instead of entering when it is clear to their right. Or, even more dangerous is when drivers don’t wait and just roar into the roundabout, then speed up to avoid other cars. I have seen too many near misses for one lifetime. And don’t even get me started on all those drivers who seem to think it is not necessary to use their indicators, apparently believing the rest of the world will understand their intentions.

For a two-lane roundabout, which give people the most problems, before entering you should have already chosen either the right (inner) or left (outer) lane, depending on where you will exit. If you are taking the first exit, stay in the left lane, indicate left and continue merrily on your way. If going straight through, you can be in either lane but you need to indicate left after you pass the exit before the one you want. If going right, start from the inner lane, indicate right and continue in that lane; again indicate left before your reach your exit. That is basically it.

Single-lane roundabouts operate on the same principles but practically speaking should be much easier to deal with.

In case you need a visual aid, here is a link to every possible roundabout scenario and how to negotiate them. Hope it helps anyone still going around in circles when it comes to understanding roundabouts.


Category: Ask Auntie

Comments (52)

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  1. Soldier Crab says:

    Obviously it is necessary to change lanes whilst going round a roundabout, otherwise the ‘inside’ lane could never be used at all. So written rules and verbal interpretations maintaining that it shouldn’t be done are simply badly phrased.
    The police and NRA have no clue about using roundabouts anyway.

    Equally annoying is the habit many people have of driving in the outside lane of a dual carriageway even when the inside lane is clear. Coming up on such a vehicle you are forced to brake the law by overtaking on the inside.

  2. Annie says:

    Back in the day when I was learning to drive (when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and drivers had manners). I was instructed to…1) give way to your right. 2) never change lanes whilst on the round about. 3) indicate your intent to exit. 4) Use the outside lane only if you are exiting at the next spoke. Simple and safe.

  3. Anonymous says:

    There is quite a bit of disagreement on this page about the 2nd exit and switching lanes. The govt website is fairly clear on this but anyway I think we can all at least agree use the inner lane if you going off after 12 o clock. If we can get people to use that rule at least I’ll be happy.

  4. Anon. says:

    Am confused by your statement.
    You said “going straight through, you can be in either lane but you need to indicate left after you pass the exit before the one you want. If going right, start from the inner lane, indicate right and continue in that lane; again indicate left before your reach your exit.”

    I don’t think you can be in either lane, I was always told if I am exiting 1st or 2nd exit stay on the outer lane, exiting after that, stay on inner lane and indicate appropriately.

    But the Police themselves seem confused when accidents occur as to whose fault it is.

    A woman hit another car because she was exiting the 3rd exit and she stayed in the outer lane. The copper said she was right because we drive on the left and she was in the left lane and the person on the inner lane was at fault because they have to give way although she was in front of this woman. The officer was Jamaican so I figure he isn’t used to the roundabout rules yet.

    The roundabout at Lantern Pointe seem to get most motorists confused. Numerous times I have seen motorists coming from the bypass, wanting to exit to go to Ocean Club and they stay in the outer lane! Why? Do they not realise the exit to go to Ocean Club is the third exit so they should be on the inner lane.

  5. Anonymous says:

    It depends on the roundabout. If it is a single lane exit, you always merge to the left lane immediately after the turn before your exit. CNS answer is partially incorrect. It’s not ‘always’ never change lane. I make this a habit in Cayman anyway to stop myself getting broadsided by somebody that doesn’t now how to use a roundabout, like a cop for example.

    • Anonymous says:

      Please say where we have a double lane roundabout that has a single lane exit. I cannot think of one. I think they all have double lane exits even if it is only for a short distance (then merge to the left). So “Auntie” may indeed be correct.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Er, sorry but that’s completely incorrect.

    If you intend to make a right hand turn on a roundabout (i.e. “3 o’clock”) you begin your approach in the right hand lane, then after you have passed the last exit before your exit you switch to the left lane. Indicating, of course. Think about the alternative – if you don’t switch lanes somebody could be very legitimately be on your left hand side (they may have entered from a different point) and if you just came off using the right hand lane then you would be causing a crash.

    • Anonymous says:

      and most of those rules are essentially thrown out the window in 8:30 traffic when both lanes are filled up.

    • Anonymous says:

      Check the Road Code & Law. The inner lane has right of way when exiting (hopefully you are indicating so the other drivers can see your intention).

  7. Sir G says:

    There will always be problems on roundabouts because the unfortunate thing is people don’t take the time to read and educate themselves on proper use. They much rather rely on their own judgement or experience which can be wrong and will continue to be wrong.

    There is a pamphlet on proper use of roundabouts being circulated by the NRA. I would advise that everyone take the opportunity to read and distribute these accordingly.

    Safe journey!

  8. satirony says:

    Little Johnny died today,
    he died maintaining the right of way,
    he was right, dead right, as he sped along,
    but he’s just as dead as if he’d been wrong.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Auntie, I concur with your explanations. May I add that the use of indicators is essential, because even if a driver is incorrect, at least their intentions are conveyed to other drivers. This could avoid many accidents on roundabouts. Essentially roundabouts are easy to use correctly. The problem is that many drivers do not have a clue how to use them correctly and don’t seem to ever care to learn. Even some driving instructors are ignorant. I had one trying to insist to me that the vehicle entering a roundabout had right-of-way over the vehicle on the roundabout!

    As for those little “round bumps in the road” – how on earth can they be expected to function as roundabouts when they’re smaller than the vehicles using them??!! Most people just drive over them!

    Many of those junctions should function as three-way or four-way stops, thus the first vehicle to the junction has right of way, but most drivers never apply that practice.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I certainly agree about using indicators…Coming from Savannah I can count on one hand the number of drivers who switch lanes with not a lick of indicating. Also on roundabouts…drivers on a dual lane exiting into a single lane seem to think it’s OK just to switch from the inner lane with no indication in order to reach the outer lane (which has the right of way to proceed straight to the exit lane). A Simple indicator being used would avoid a lot of unecessary road rage.
    Also….PLEASE !!!! Indicate BEFORE you brake and turn……. DO NOT jam your brakes on and start turning THEN indicate.

    • Anonymous says:

      8.49 here…I meant to say I can count on one hand the number of people who actually DO use indicators…the majority use not a lick of indicating…just swerve from lane to lane…often missing the person they are jumping in front of by millimeters !

  11. Anonymous says:

    well as you can see from all these varying answers that the problem will remain and everyone will still have disagreements with each other as to what is right and wrong. Seems from the start no one can agree, not even the police at times, and i see no hope for everyone to ever agree how to use these double lane roundabouts.

    My suggestion is that there should have never been double lane roundabouts from the start, they are just a sore problem always causing accidents and near misses, and they need to be reduced to single lane only for everyone’s peace of mind and simplicity and avoiding stress and near heart attacks from so many close calls. It would be better for everyone’s health and psyche.

    I think double lane roundabouts are stupid in Cayman and not necessary for such a small island. In the US a double lane roundabout is probably 3 to 5 times the size of the double lane roundabouts here, so it is much easier to get it right because of having more space and time to be in it to get it right. Here by time you get in the roundabout you need to get out because they are so small, so it is foolish for them to have multiple lanes.

    The bodywork shops won’t complain though. They be smiling all the way to the bank!

    • Anonymous says:

      Where in the US are you finding roundabouts? They are not very common, which may be part of the problem in Cayman.

      • Anonymous says:

        USA has many roundabouts, google it. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be single lane roundabouts here in Cayman, i’m saying it’s the double lane ones that are too stressful. Single lane will work just fine and even better because there will be no confusion and no trying to change lanes, no cursing, no stress, no guessing games, and no accidents.

        • Annie says:

          I have only once encountered a round about in the states, it was in Maine. And I lived there for over a decade. Americans are clueless about round about some, sorry to say.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Clearly there is much need for more driver education on the rules for using our roundabouts. I myself never risk using the inner (right) lane to exit straight ahead as so often folks in the outer (left) lane try to turn right, thereby risking being T-boned by my rather weighty truck. Dear readers, my current advice is to always use the outer (left) lane to exit straight ahead. I know it’s something that should not be necessary, but needs must until things get sorted out, if ever. Thanks for reading, and safe driving!

    • Anonymous says:

      actually the people need to care about driving the right way. The police have gone through this way too much.

    • Anonymous says:

      so your answer to people incorrectly using the roundabout is to break the rules of the road yourself. Nice!

      • Anonymous says:

        you obviously misunderstood what i was saying. The Police has explained this to death. But there are drivers out there who simply do not care about the rules. if they dont care you can explain until you are purple and it will not matter

        • Anonymous says:

          Station police cars so that anyone using a roundabout correctly is pulled over and given advice. Take their number, you pull a car over, go through the same process but also check if they have previously been pulled over, if they have issue a ticket or traffic violation citation. Oh but there is a major flaw in this because the police themselves do not have a clue.

  13. Cirque de Sol says:

    I would hate to be in an accident on a roundabout. Even if completely in the right, the likelihood of the traffic cops coming to the correct conclusion would be remote in the extreme.

    • Anonymous says:

      “I would hate to” tells me that you have never been involved in an accident on a roundabout in the Cayman Islands. Am I right? By contrast, i actually have.
      When I called the RCIP, two officers responded promptly followed by an accident reconstruction expert, who quickly ascertained the correct circumstances.
      I was extremely pleased with the response of the RCIP and wrote in to commend them.

  14. One Stop Drivva says:

    Just stay the hell out of my way and you will be fine.

  15. Al Catraz says:

    Now that we have it squared away for cars, I would love to know the rule for bicycles. My understanding is that bicycles are to operate through roundabouts in the same manner as cars. The majority opinion of people in cars has, in my experience, differed from my understanding.

    I often wonder what it is that people think bicycles *should* do in order to go from six o’clock to twelve o’clock. I have taken the outside lane, had the car behind me pull alongside, and then attempt to turn left at the first exit, as if I was supposed to stop for them. Likewise, a car entering from the left will usually pull right into the roundabout directly in front of me. My assumption is that having seen my dapper appearance, they are keen to have a permanent profile of my face embedded into the body of their car.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Every dam morning at the roundabout by the old glass building you can hear this out the car window “It’s NOT a 4 way stop people!!!!! MOVE!!”
    Actually, pretty much the same on all roundabouts in Cayman. They still don’t get it!

    • A Nony Mouse says:

      It is very interesting to note that, whilst most road users fail to STOP for a STOP sign, they will STOP at a perfectly EMPTY roundabout and fidget until another road user finally sits on their horn or yells at them to MOVE! It happens on a daily basis and is extremely frustrating.

      • Anonymous says:

        Coupled with that is the need to be “nice” and let someone out when you are already on the round about! Hello, once you get on, keep moving…don’t stop to be friendly!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Whilst your description is technically accurate it is however perfectly okay to change lanes as long as the principle of not causing another road user to change direction, slow down or to take emergency avoidance action. However, these principles also apply to ALL road manoeuvres, but on this island that simple rule is rarely followed.
    But most of all, get off your phones, strap your children in safely, try talking and facing forward at the same time, stop putting on make-up or brushing hair whilst driving, use your damn indicators and wake the hell up!

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually, Cayman road law says you can’t change lanes. It is important to note that in probably all other countries in the world you would normally change to the outer lane after you pass the exit before yours.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Obviously you have to cross the outside lane to use the inside lane. This causes close calls all the time. Isn’t that a lane change? Having two lane roundabouts for 3,4 or 5 roads, some feeding into one lane exits, all in various directions, with no usable signage, not to mention the dots that are no longer visible at various kinds of lane intersections, makes it challenging. The roads are pretty good compared to the rest of the Caribbean, but the geometry of many of the roundabouts is crazy.

    • Anonymous says:

      You get in the correct lane before you enter the roundabout and stay in it until you exit. Changing lanes once you are on the roundabout is illegal.

      Just remember you have a choice of lanes of you are taking the second exit. For every other exit you need to be in the designated lane.

  19. Miss Daisy says:

    How is this still an issue!?! The rules and Road Code are quite clear.

    Great answer and the link should assist those in need of further guidance!

    • Anonymous says:

      Miss Daisy do you really believe that everyone read that Road Code once they built the first roundabout???
      Silly goose

  20. Anonymous says:

    The worst round about is the dump road little round about. It seems the majority of people heading towards parkers think dump road has the right of way….. Causes more traffic on the north sound road than really nessascary….. But then again most people on the roads don’t give a shot about anyone else so I’m not really surprised anymore

  21. Peter Smith says:

    Unfortunately what this does not show and is misleading is the correct lane for coming off a dual lane road into a single lane. In this case, you should stay in the outside lane, if turning left or going straight over. It does not help that the NRA have the wrong signs up for this on two roundabouts. Lantern Point being one.

    What’s more worrying is that I have seen driving instructors make learner drivers go all the way round Hurleys roundabout in the outside lane returning to the test centre!!

    Are driving instructors monitored or even licensed?

    My driving instructor taught me a long time ago that if you think of entering a round a bout at six o’cock, you should stay in the outside lane if exiting up to 12 o’clock, or use the inside lane if exiting one o’clock or later.

    • Anonymous says:

      Up to 12 o’clock you can use the inside or outside so the signage is correct.

      • Anonymous says:

        Trying to think of a roundabout in Cayman this would apply to, but unless otherwise signed, you must be in the left lane if the straight over exit (12) is a single lane exit. I think here we have dual lane exits, even if they are only merge lanes like the one at the Kings roundabout going into town.

        • ThIs WrItInG Is VeRy IrRiTaTiNg says:

          The roundabout coming into Camana Bay from the north is like this (a two lane roundabout with all but one exit a single lane). Most people think there are two lanes going into Camana Bay but that is not how the road is marked. The road is wide enough for there to be two lanes but there is no line painted in the middle to indicate this. All of the important people take the right lane to go straight and force their way in so they can get 10 cars ahead of where the would otherwise be. Until basic traffic laws are strictly enforced the roads are only going to get more dangerous here. If the police want to fill their budget gaps they need to start handing out tickets to all of the people that don’t know how to drive. They could start with the easy ones like not using indicators and running stop signs and red lights and move on from there.

          • Anonymous says:

            Thank you, yes spot on, I know the one you mean, being from the eastern side of the island I don’t frequent it much, but now you mention it…All it takes is a simple arrow on the approach road to ‘remind’ people of the lane to be in. Tin of paint costs nothing and should help tourists and confused drivers alike.

    • Anonymous says:

      There are two roundabout rules on exiting from the inside lane, Australia requires you to remain in the outside lane, as you describe, the UK allows you to choose either if the lane is free, which it should be as no-one should be undertaking you. I think Cayman follows the UK.

  22. Anonymous says:

    And for goodness sake, if you are going straight ahead DO NOT indicate right and then shift to indicate left once past the first exit. Just indicate left when past the exit. There is no need to indicate right in those circumstances.

    • Anonymous says:

      I see the police do this one every day, if they don’t know how to drive how are they expected to enforce the road rules?

      • Anonymous says:

        Worse still the Cayman Airways guide to driving tells motorists to indicate right when going straight ahead.

      • Anonymous says:

        You saw the police using their indicators, surely you jest. They don’t even stop at stop signs.

    • Anonymous says:

      Rubbish. If you do not indicate right until you are passing the exit prior to the one you intend to use (straight on or not) how does the other driver(s) arriving/waiting at the entrance(s) KNOW when it is safe to enter?
      Think about yourself being the driver wanting to enter. You look right. See a car with no indication. You have to stop and wait until it becomes clear what they intend to do. Thereby slowing traffic flow.
      Every vehicle using a roundabout should be indicating from the time they enter until after exiting. No exceptions. No debate about intentions.
      Even if a driver uses the wrong lane, by indicating at least the other drivers will know their intentions and can watch out for the nincompoop.