Autumn 2013


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Don't signal to the Birds



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Don't signal to the Birds - John Panting

I was approached to write an Article on Signalling at Roundabouts. You will probably know by now that I am a National Observer for the Institute of Advance Motorists (IAM). I mention this because it really in many ways makes the answer very simple. There is no precise answer. However, to explain this answer takes a little more effort as below.

So the first point to cover is really comes via Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

To Signal or Not To Signal?

While you are behind the wheel you are constantly using your five senses to TAKE in information.

You USE this information to make a Plan.

The Plan will incorporate amongst others, the decision about signalling - To Signal or Not To Signal?

So when should you signal?

Well for a start Don’t Signal to the Birds.

You should signal when it is a benefit to other Road Users. You may in some cases not be able to see them but could reasonably expect them to arrive on the scene. (Road Users include pedestrians, cyclist, motor cyclists and drivers of any vehicle etc.)

Once you are through this process you decide to or not to GIVE a signal.

The above is called the INFORMATION phase and includes TAKE USE GIVE (TUG).

OK now if we have decided to signal when and where should we give it?

When we approach a Hazard we have to consider where to POSITION the vehicle.

Once this is decided we need to signal in good time before we change position.

You have to repeat the above process several times for a roundabout. On approach to it. While going round it. When about to leave.

What signal you give will depend but remember it must be appropriate and of benefit to other road users. This is not as easy as it sounds because a signal can confuse or mislead other road users.

So back to - There is no precise answer. We need to ask what a roundabout is.

The answer is reasonably simple. It’s a group of roads that meet at a node (point) where traffic is required to negotiate it in a procession clockwise. (If you drive on the left).

The difficult part is that every roundabout is unique: i.e.

1. The number of roads that meet.

2. Where they meet and leave it.

3. The type of road (dual carriageway, single track etc.).

4. The size of the centre. (From enormous to a blob of paint).

5. The speed traffic negotiates it.

6. Whether it’s lit at night.

7. It may have lane markings.

8. It may have dedicated lanes on the approach roads.

9. It may have dedicated lane markings around it.

10. It could have traffic lights to its approach.

11. It could have traffic light within it.

12. It may even break the basic rule of give way to the right and have give way markings within the roundabout.

13. You may be able to see over the centre of it or maybe not.

14. Two or three mini roundabouts may be linked together.

I think I could add more but the point is made.

If you change any one of the above 14 you make another not quite ‘unique’ roundabout from about 86,000,000,000 possibilities.

Hence the above explains why drivers/riders never get the simple answer which serves all roundabouts.

If you want a simple answer then read the Highway Code sections 184 to 190 but as you know it really does not cover the question fully. You have to decide if, when and what to signal for every roundabout you negotiate - at entry, while negotiating it, and at exit. Safe Driving!

Wow! So now we have the experts answer. When I passed my test in 1958 things were less complicated and the answer I was given was: Always signal your intention to leave but never until you have passed the exit immediately before the one you are taking. It has worked for me on three continents over fifty five years. Go safely!

Mike H