Traffic circles - What are the rules?

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IOL mot pic feb12 Traffic Circle 1 INLSA York Road Circle at the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town is unusual in that it is raised, but all the rules still apply. Picture Henk Kruger

For the majority of drivers, one of the most confusing driving laws is the correct use of a traffic circle. In fact, many motorists do not know that there is a difference between the larger traffic circles and the mini traffic circles, other than their size. Can you really be frustrated if someone cuts you off at a traffic circle if you don't know the rules? The AA has shed some light on the issue.

What is the difference between the two circles?

A traffic circle is classified as large when it has a minimum diameter of about 16 metres and a 1.5 to 2 metre flattened curb which allows heavy vehicles to drive onto a small section of the circle. A mini traffic circle is normally not more than seven to 10 metres in diameter and the entire circle is mountable for heavy vehicles.

Are there differing rules for each?

“Yes,” said Gary Ronald, Head of public affairs at the Automobile Association of South Africa.

“The rule of thumb is that mini traffic circles, which are usually found in residential areas, have the same rules as a four-way stop - first come first served. For larger traffic circles, which are usually found at busy crossings to assist with the flow of traffic, you need

IOL mot pic feb11 Mini Traffic Circle 1 Mini traffic circles, which are usually found in residential areas, have the same rules as a four-way stop: first come first served. pedbikeimages/Heather Bowden

to give way to the right.”

Rules to remember at a large traffic circle:

As you arrive at a large traffic circle, traffic coming from your right has right of way, regardless of how many cars there are.

Wait until there is s a gap in the traffic and then ease slowly into the circle.

Watch out for other traffic in the circle and be aware that they may not be using their indicators.

Use your indicators

Signal when you are going to turn - switch your indicator on immediately after passing the exit prior to the one you

intend taking.

If you are taking the first exit, i.e. you're turning left, then flick on your left indicator and keep in the outside/left-hand


Keeping in the outside/left-hand lane also works well if you're continuing straight ahead as your exit is very close. After

you've passed the left turn exit and yours is next, signal left and you're free.

If you're turning right or performing a U-turn, keep in the inside/right-hand lane. Only signal left and change into the left-hand

lane once you've passed the other exits and only yours is ahead.

Rules to remember at a mini traffic circle:

The first vehicle to cross the line has the right of way, so it really works on the same principle as a four-way stop or yield


Proceed in a clockwise direction around the circle, without driving on it.

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