How do Roundabouts Work? A Quick Guide to Kitchener’s New Intersections

We all know that four-way-stops are a daily source of aggravation. People do rolling stops, right of way is often ambiguous, and it’s just one more obstacle that slows you down. It’s why Waterloo Region has seen a commitment to roundabouts – these intersections are designed to keep traffic flowing, while making for a safer driving experience.

According to the Toronto Star, “…planners say the safety and traffic flow benefits are behind the boom in roundabouts, and it also means road capacity and traffic flow can be increased without adding lanes.” It makes sense: the less often vehicles have to cross paths directly, the fewer bad collisions we’ll see. But unless you got your licence in the U.K., roundabouts are likely a confounding addition to your daily drive.

Get rid of your roundabout anxiety with these tips on proper roundabout use.

Slow Down

Remember, it’s still an intersection. Vehicles already in the roundabout have right-of-way, so assess the traffic before rushing in.

Go Right

This might be the most important tip. A roundabout always flows counter-clockwise. This means that if you enter to the left of the centre island, you’re inviting a head-on collision.

Choose the Correct Lane

At larger roundabouts, there will often be multiple lanes leading into the intersection. Be aware of the road signage, but also remember that the left lanes become inner lanes around the centre island, which should be used if you’re making a left or U-turn.

Watch out for Pedestrians

The roundabout can be distracting for new users – don’t let this keep you from noticing pedestrian traffic.


There might not be stop-signs, but you may still be required to stop if traffic in the intersection is dense. Wait until there is a safe gap, and merge with traffic in a way that doesn’t cause anyone to slam on their brakes.

Be Predictable

Once you’re in the roundabout, it’s like driving on any other road. Keep with the flow of traffic, and don’t stop or slow down excessively except in emergencies. If everyone does their part, a roundabout should allow you to enter and exit with minimal changes in speed.

No Passing

Okay, so it’s not quite like driving on any other road. It’s an intersection, but it’s also one long corner. Roundabouts are safest for everyone when road users drive at a consistent, uniform speed.

Stay in Your Lane

If you’ve done everything right, you should already be in the lane that corresponds with your desired exit. If you’re in the wrong lane for your exit, don’t panic. It’s safer to carry on and make a slight detour than to change lanes unpredictably.


We all get confused or disoriented the first time we encounter a big roundabout, so don’t let it stress you out. Just keep going at a safe speed, yield, and remember that you can always do another loop if you need to. If you miss your turn, or get cut-off by someone using the roundabout incorrectly, you’ll get another chance to exit in a minute. Collisions happen when you get flustered or angry, so be patient and drive carefully. All drivers benefit when a roundabout is used properly and safely.

Even if you do everything right, you can still run into trouble in a roundabout. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, contact the personal injury lawyers at Harris Law at 519-725-8000 for a free one-hour consultation.