Roundabouts: A tutorial for Californians


I admit it, I'm an aggressive driver. I drive too fast, and am generally impatient. However, even I can cut some slack to people in California who drive like little old ladies when it's raining, as it never rains much here (or at least regularly). And in the snow like on the way to Tahoe? I accept that they may have absolutely no clue that their cars will not control as per normal. See? I'm an understanding guy.

However, when approaching a run of the mill roundabout in a residential neighborhood? I don't accept the fact that most native California drivers careen around one like it was a deer that just scampered into their path, or the exact opposite, stop dead staring at it as if it was a UFO that has landed, unbidden, in the midst of their daily commute. It's a ROUNDABOUT. Back East, we've been known to call them "rotaries". In Europe, they can be called lots of things like "traffic circles" or, even more fun, circuses. They're not to be feared, really.

Here's a quick tutorial on how to manage them for those Californians who are completely bewildered by the lack of blinky lights or signs without words on them like STOP or YIELD.

  • Rule #1: Don't Panic.
  • Rule #2: Don't stop.
  • Rule #3: Don't expect others to stop.
  • Rule #4: Don't turn left and don't drive OVER the island (it's not a speed bump).
  • Rule #5: Yield (that means 'let the other guy go first') to the vehicle on your left if they've arrived before you.
  • Rule #6: Don't Panic.

Now, I know what you're thinking about rule #5: How do you know who to yield to? What happens if four of you arrive at the exact same moment! OMG! First, remember Rule #1, and also remember that if all of you yield, and not stop, then all of you will be able to enter and exit the roundabout without collisions (it has to do with physics and algebra and stuff... trust me). So even in this extreme case of instant arrival, you will all be safe if you actually don't slam on the brakes or step on the gas to beat the guy on the right.

I hope this helps, and just as hopefully I hope that you will stop screeching to a halt in front of me as you approach a circle, or as I continue around the roundabout in my car at a reasonable speed, that you people on the left will stop honking your horn at me and scowling, as it is clear from the above that *I* am actually the one who is driving correctly, and you are an idiot.

If you have any questions, simply take your license out of your wallet, cut it in half, and mail it to your local DMV. Once they receive the license, I'm sure they will contact you to help you with any issues or confusions you may have.


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