There is often much confusion to be found amongst drivers on how to drive at traffic circles. We have shared information on this at the Arrive Alive website in several sections. We would also in this post like to refer to a question received from a concerned road user on this matter:
I read the article on right of way at traffic circles. However the article does not clear up the problem. but goes on about correct lanes? the problem is actually right of way when APPROACHING the circle. We all agree about right of way to traffic ALREADY IN THE CIRCLE. If you have arrived at a traffic circle and waiting at the white line and there is traffic approaching from the right but have not reached the white line, this approaching traffic believes they have right of way as per the rule ( yield to traffic on your right ).
This is the problem which needs clarification! I believe the correct and the most considerate explanation should in this scenario is first come first into the circle? I have had many altercations with drivers who don’t agree and have entered the circle from my right even though I arrived at the line before them and then after entering the circle they continue into the circle and hoot and shout abuse believing me to be in the wrong? Please give your opinion on this problem. Johan Van Bargen who does the morning traffic report advises the first come first in rule, or treat as a four way stop? Many thanks.
Response via Gavin Hoole:
I understand what your concern is. My website pages focus primarily on what one needs to know in order to pass the learner’s licence test, which itself is an abortion, having questions about regulations that are not part of the official syllabus per the National Road Traffic Act — see http://k53.gavinhoole.ws/is-the-learners-licence-test-illegal/
Nevertheless, I intend to add some text regarding the courtesy aspect associated with roundabouts, as well as slowing down before entering a traffic circle. I should have that online by sometime tomorrow.
Thank you for bringing this matter up. Whether the Department of Transport is interested in looking at the whole aspect of ‘traffic circles’ is another matter. As I said on the phone, only this week I wondered whether adding an image of the mini-circle road marking to the road sign, in the center, inside the the three black arrows, would at least be a start at identifying what kind of circle it is and therefore which rules apply. The whole thing is very sloppily handled by the authorities.
Many thanks for your swift response on my concerns .
I believe the signs are there and motorists should obey whatever sign is erected regardless of whether there is a roundabout or mini-circle.
Like All Road Traffic Signs which indicate what is required of a driver and are what all drivers learn when taking their drivers tests, motorists need to be aware that regardless of their opinions and the many to say the least, confusing written remarks and books, the bottom line is they must comply with whatever the sign displayed, indicates.
As most drivers seem to be inconsiderate at traffic circles by failing to slow down, I thought of the idea to put traffic calming humps about 8 to 10 metres before the white line approaching a circle? this would slow all traffic approaching the circle thus giving other traffic a fair and safer chance to enter, the traffic in the circle would clear quicker? This may help the actual flow which is what the circle is intended for? Any thoughts on that?
Many thanks again for your efforts.
Response on road signs and a approaching a Traffic Circle:
I think having speed humps before roundabouts is an excellent idea. Perhaps the municipality in your area of KZN can be persuaded to do that at the particular roundabout you have referred to.
The Google Maps photo below is of a circle we have near our local shopping mall. You can see the speed humps on the approach to the circle (the blurred silver raised bumps in the foreground, just above the Google name). There is a mini-circle sign at this circle, even though it is not a true mini-circle with the small painted island. I imagine that the circle you have been referring to is larger than this one which is located in an access road adjacent to the shopping center itself.
Speed humps are probably even more necessary when the circle is on a main route where vehicles can approach faster.
I agree with you that the traffic circle situation in South Africa is very confusing, to say the least. In my view it is partly (perhaps mainly) because of incorrect signage being used, and there being no definition that everyone is aware of as to what size is considered to be a mini-circle and what sized circle is called a roundabout. But the first priority should be to get the signage sorted out.
In the section on road signs in the National Road Traffic Act and Regulations is very clear about what the current signage is, and what the two signs mean. As mentioned before, there are only two regulatory signs for ‘traffic circles’, per these extracts from the legislation (courtsey lexisnexis.co.za):
There are no other regulatory road signs for any other kind of traffic circle, though there is the mini-circle road surface marking that marks the raised island and reinforces the direction of travel around it.
Confusion in the Dept of Transport itself
In an unofficial document that I have seen, prepared by the DoT but not which is not part of the legislation, this is what they have to say about these two signs:
This ties in fairly closely with the National Road Traffic Act’s statement about the Roundabout sign, as shown higher up in this e-mail.
However, for the Yield at mini-circle sign they have, for some reason unknown to me, deviated from what the Act/Regulations say. This is what the unofficial document says:
Problems with that statement:
- The sign is NOT called a ‘Yield at traffic circle’ sign. The Act’s section on road signs specifically calls it a Yield at mini-circle sign. There is a big difference in terms of the rules.
- The explanation in the official road signs regulations also refers specifically and only to a mini-circle, not to ‘traffic circles, particularly mini circles’.
The ‘purpose’ of the sign, in the unofficial document, is stated to be: ‘To warn you that there is a traffic circle ahead where you must expect to yield.’ This is simply not correct.
The Yield at mini-circle sign is NOT a WARNING sign; it is a regulatory CONTROL sign which is placed at the junction, not ahead of it to ‘warn’ you. It is a regulatory sign that must be obeyed.
The sign below is the WARNING sign that is used for both kinds of circles ahead, and is shaped with the point at the top, as are all such warning signs:
If the Department of Transport is apparently confused about the names and meanings of these road signs for circles, and even drafts documents that reflect that confusion and are out of line with the legislation, how then are drivers expected to know without any doubt what to do when they approach a ‘traffic’ circle with the wrong signage? The situation really needs to be sorted out and cleaned up nationwide.
I’m sending a copy of this e-mail to Jonckie Jonck of the ArriveAlive.co.za website, to Pat Allen, President of the Southern African Institute of Driving Instructors and to Howard Dembovski of Justice Project South Africa, in the hope that pressure can be put on the DoT to sort out this mess.
For additional information, here again is the link to my four Web pages about ‘traffic circles’, roundabouts and mini-circles:
Kind regards to all,
Learner’s Licence & K53