How to navigate New Zealand roundabouts like a pro

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Roundabouts are circular intersections designed to keep traffic flowing smoothly.

Roundabouts are circular intersections designed to keep traffic flowing smoothly.

Navigating New Zealand's roundabouts can be both exhilarating and challenging. Roundabouts are a common feature on our roads, and mastering them is essential for a smooth and safe driving experience

But not everyone knows how to get through these traffic circles properly. So, whether you're new to driving or just brushing up on your skills, you may learn something from our 10 best tips for driving on New Zealand roundabouts like a pro.

Know the basics

Before we dive into the details, let's brush up on the basics. Roundabouts are circular intersections designed to keep traffic flowing smoothly. Vehicles inside the roundabout have the right of way over those entering, and you must always drive clockwise around the central island.

Observe the give-way rules

In New Zealand, we drive on the left-hand side of the road. When approaching a roundabout, always give way (yield) to vehicles - close - already on the roundabout. That doesn't mean give away to a vehicle on the opposite side of a large two-lane roundabout, or one also about to enter on your right, but generally one within or entering the closest entry point. Keep an eye out for the "Give Way" or "Yield" sign and road markings, and be prepared to stop if necessary.

Use your indicators

Indicators are your best friends when negotiating roundabouts - but use them as you would if it were a normal intersection - don't indicate right, if you intend to go straight ahead at a four-way roundabout. Use your left indicator when approaching and intending to exit the roundabout immediately at the next left exit. If you're going straight through the roundabout (not taking any exits), DO NOT indicate right as you enter, and indicate left at your exit, which is particularly helpful if a car is waiting for your move.

The worst roundabout users are the following: those on a two-lane roundabout who indicate right, but go straight ahead, and the one who uses the left lane, and turn right (across the right lane). These are accidents waiting to happen, but are unfortunately very common in NZ.

Choose the correct lane

Many roundabouts have multiple lanes, so it's crucial to choose the correct one based on your intended exit. If you plan to take the first exit, stay in the left lane. For the second(straight-on) exit, use the left (or marked lane(s)), and for a right-turn beyond the second exit (on a five-way roundabout), stick to the right lane. Changing lanes inside the roundabout is a no-go and can lead to accidents.

Check your blind spots

As you approach a roundabout and prepare to change lanes or exit, always check your blind spots. Our Kiwi roads can be busy, and it's crucial to be aware of other vehicles, especially motorcycles, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Keep a safe following distance 

Maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of you, especially in heavy traffic. This gives you time to react to any sudden stops or lane changes. Tailgating is never a good idea, and it's a surefire way to ruin your day on the road.

Be patient and courteous

Patience and courtesy go a long way when navigating roundabouts. If you're unsure about the intentions of other drivers, give them a little extra space and avoid aggressive maneuvers. Remember that no one on the road wants an accident, so everyone should prioritise safety.

Roundabout etiquette

Sometimes, you may encounter roundabouts with multiple lanes that allow you to choose your exit lane within the roundabout itself. In such cases, signal your intent clearly, and if you need to change lanes, do so safely and smoothly, always adhering to the road rules.

Practice makes perfect

Like any skill, mastering roundabouts takes practice. Find a less busy roundabout to start with and gradually work your way up to larger and more complex ones. Confidence comes with experience, so don't be discouraged if it takes some time.

Stay informed

Road rules and regulations can change, so staying informed on the latest changes is essential. Keep an eye on updates from the NZ Transport Agency and always drive in accordance with the latest laws and guidelines.


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