Do you know how to use a roundabout?

These types of intersections are relatively rare in Canada, but you’ll find a few here and there. They can be a bit intimidating the first time you encounter one, but they work really well if you know and follow the rules. (Some people call them traffic circles, but there are differences: traffic circles are larger, and may have stop signs or signals in them.)

Their greatest benefit is that they help stop “T-bone” crashes, among the deadliest of collisions. They’re also considered more environmentally-friendly, since you don’t sit idling at a red light.

Think of the roundabout as a one-way street in a circle. You always enter on your left-hand side, just as if you were merging onto a highway, and drive counter-clockwise in the circle. Coming up to most roundabouts, you’ll see a sign that shows the exits, so you’ll know in advance where you need to leave the circle to continue your route.

Your entrance will be marked with a yield sign. As you approach it, look for vehicles in the circle, and for those approaching it. The right-of-way always belongs to vehicles that are already in the circle. However, the circle doesn’t have to be empty before you can enter it. As long as your lane is clear, and any other vehicles are far enough away, you can enter the circle without stopping. (But always remember to check to your right, in case there are any pedestrians crossing.)

If there is oncoming traffic, stop at the yield sign until the lane is clear, and then proceed.

You are required to use your turn signal when you’re leaving the circle. Put it on just after you pass the exit before yours, so drivers waiting to enter will know that you’ll be leaving the circle.

If you miss your exit, never stop or back up. Just keep going around the circle, and exit the next time.

Some roundabouts can have two lanes going into them. In this case, think of the circle in terms of a regular intersection. If you’re going to get off at the first exit, you’re essentially making a right-hand turn, and so you need to enter the circle in the right-hand lane. If you’re going around the circle—as if you were going straight through, or turning left at a regular intersection—then enter via the left-hand lane. Watch for traffic to your right when it’s time to exit.

And that’s pretty much it. Once you’ve tried one, you’ll never want to sit at a red light again.