Monday, 30 June 2014

They’re useful, in a roundabout way

The humble roundabout, first introduced as a simple traffic calming measure, is now as much a feature of our roads as potholes and traffic jams. But we're still not used to them. Last year there were almost 30,000 injury causing accidents at roundabouts.

When approaching roundabouts, advanced drivers think 'IPSGA' – Information, position, speed, gears, acceleration – the stages you should use to deal with any junction, bend or hazard. Bear these stages in mind when you approach a roundabout and you will reduce the risk of an accident.

At roundabouts, it is useful to try and consider the whole thing as one manoeuvre – that way you have a plan about which lane to be in, when to move into that lane, and what signals you expect to use. But you must be prepared to be flexible depending on the traffic.

Information:  Look well ahead; check your mirrors so that you can identify any emerging problems  well before you get there, and to make sure you know who is behind and to either side of you. Signal in plenty of time. If there is nothing in front of you, try and identify a gap in the traffic before you reach the junction. If you have at least one car in front of you, keep your attention on that vehicle until it's your turn. Looking for gaps in the traffic encourages you to move forward to catch the gap you would have gone for, sometimes forgetting the vehicle stopped in front of you.

Position: Choose your lane on the approach, according to which exit you're taking. As a general rule use the left hand lane if you're taking a turning before 12 o clock, or going straight on, and use the right hand lane if your exit is between 12 and six o clock. Watch for any road markings guiding you, particularly when lane discipline is confusing, and try to give other vehicles enough space. 

Speed: Slow down smoothly to a speed that's appropriate for the junction. If you can see the roundabout is clear, choose a speed that is suitable for going around the roundabout, but always be prepared to stop. 

Gears: Once you're at the right speed, select the correct gear. If you are reducing speed a lot, or coming to a halt, it is perfectly acceptable to block change down the gears in one go, for example by going from fourth to neutral.  Adjust your speed early so that you have time to separate changing speed from changing gear.

Accelerate: At a roundabout choose a gap in the traffic and accelerate smoothly into it – the same applies to any other junction. Gently accelerating through a corner balances the car, so keep the power on as you go through the junction.

To avoid being rear-ended by another vehicle, brake early, and keep your foot lightly on the foot brake while stationary, to alert drivers approaching from behind.

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