Driving in circles

By Paul Viau | May 26, 2012
Photo by: File photo LOOKS LIKE A QUESTION MARK — Don't be confused by traffic circles. Just yield to cars already in the circle, and go with the flow.

I have noticed that many drivers in our “neck of the woods” seem confused with traffic circles, or as the Brits call them, roundabouts. We only have two in the Waynesville area that I know of, and gratefully there are none in Maggie Valley — where speed (especially with the logging trucks) prevents their use completely.

Did you know? — Waynesville’s roundabouts are rather tame, especially compared to those in England, where traffic circles are much more plentiful and confusing, and drivers must negotiate them driving from the left (or wrong) side of the road.

I have mastered roundabouts. In fact, in the quiet little suburb of Jupiter, Florida, where we last lived, I used roundabouts to learn to ride a motorcycle. It was a great way to practice tight cornering techniques, emergency braking procedures, and anger management.

It was “in a roundabout way” that I learned how to “lay down” my bike — well, almost. So here is a little primer on roundabout driving techniques. Hopefully, it will help those of you afflicted with roundaboutaphobia.

Lesson 1 — Whenever approaching a traffic circle, brake hard. Come to a full stop — if you must — then ponder the traffic in the circle, carefully waiting until you see no cars at all. Then — and only then — proceed at a maximum speed of 5 mph.

Lesson 2 — While in the roundabout, whenever you encounter another entry/exit point, hesitate. Let approaching cars think you are exiting … then continue, not exceeding 5 mph. This is the football equivalent of the head fake, and it helps improve the skill of all drivers in the roundabout.

Lesson 3 — If you are in a hurry, pretend that there are no cars at all in the roundabout. Yield to no one. Use the tight circle to practice NASCAR cornering.

Lesson 4 — Every once in a while (if you’re not in a hurry) go ’round the roundabout multiple times. This will help those drivers who come to a full stop at entry points to hone their braking skills. It will also give you time to listen to some of my favorite roundabout songs, like Selena Gomez’s “Round and round, we’re never getting off," or if you have kids, sing along with, “The wheels of the bus go round and round.”

Lesson 5 — (For use only in the roundabout near Walmart, at Exit 98) Approach this roundabout slowly and cautiously. There is no need to rush, because when you get to Walmart, your prescription will still not be ready — even though you received a robocall. Bear right and explore the peace and quite of Hyatt Creek Road for a few minutes. Then return to the roundabout from a direction that will surely give you the right of way.

All this kidding aside, the proper way to negotiate a traffic circle is to yield to cars already in the circle before entering. Or better yet, see lesson 6.

Lesson 6 — Take back roads where there are no roundabouts. Let those city folk have their &*#@! roundabouts.