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New Highway Code for roundabouts

Insights / / Bristol

Imagine trying to get around the famous magic roundabout in Swindon, UK, a complex and overlapping set of multiple roundabouts, together forming one large roundabout. Roundabouts can be difficult to manoeuvre around at times, trying to work out which lane to be in to exit...

Highway Code

The Highway Code states at present:

Rule 185

When reaching the roundabout you should:

  • Give priority to traffic approaching from your right, unless directed otherwise by signs, road markings or traffic lights
  • Check whether road markings allow you to enter the roundabout without giving way. If so, proceed, but still look to the right before joining
  • Watch out for all other road users already on the roundabout; be aware they may not be signalling correctly or at all
  • Look forward before moving off to make sure traffic in front has moved off.

Rule 186

Signals and position. When taking the first exit to the left, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise:

  • Signal left and approach in the left-hand lane
  • Keep to the left on the roundabout and continue signalling left to leave.

When taking an exit to the right or going full circle, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise:

  • Signal right and approach in the right-hand lane
  • Keep to the right on the roundabout until you need to change lanes to exit the roundabout
  • Signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you want.

When taking any intermediate exit, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise:

  • Select the appropriate lane on approach to the roundabout
  • You should not normally need to signal on approach
  • Stay in this lane until you need to alter course to exit the roundabout
  • Signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you want.

When there are more than three lanes at the entrance to a roundabout, use the most appropriate lane on approach and through it.

New Highway Code 186

The new section under rule 186 states road users should give priority to cyclists on roundabouts. The new rule gives drivers a better idea why cyclists go around a roundabout in the way they do.

They will be travelling more slowly than motorised traffic.

Give them plenty of room and do not attempt to overtake them within their lane. Allow them to move across your path as they travel around the roundabout.

Cyclists, horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles may stay in the left-hand lane when they intend to continue across or around the roundabout and should signal right to show you they are not leaving the roundabout. 

Drivers should take extra care when entering a roundabout to ensure that they do not cut across cyclists, horse riders or horse-drawn vehicles in the left-hand lane, who are continuing around the roundabout.  Many cyclists do this anyway because it is the safest way for them to cross a roundabout. The changed code is simply making car drivers more aware of this, as it is not what you normally do when driving a car.

Legal position

Remember the Highway Code is not only guidance but some rules are legal requirements. Road users who breach them may be cautioned, given penalty points, fined, banned from driving, or in the worst cases be sent to prison, depending on the seriousness of the offence.

Although failure to comply with the other rules would not, in itself, cause a person to be prosecuted, the Highway Code may be used in court under the Road Traffic Act 1988 to establish liability. These include advisory rules with wording 'should' and 'should not' or 'do' (or a simple imperative) and 'do not'. In general, only the latest official printed version of the Highway Code should be used, but in legal proceedings, whether civil or criminal, the version current at the time of the incident would apply.

The Road Traffic Act 1988 states:

A failure on the part of a person to observe a provision of The Highway Code shall not of itself render that person liable to criminal proceedings of any kind but any such failure may in any proceedings (whether civil or criminal, and including proceedings for an offence under the Traffic Acts, the [1981 c. 14.] Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 or sections 18 to 23 of the [1985 c. 67.] Transport Act 1985) be relied upon by any party to the proceedings as tending to establish or negative any liability which is in question in those proceedings.[9]

Case law

Crashes that occur when two motor vehicles collide on a roundabout are already established and often get resolved on a 50/50 split liability basis i.e. each party accepting 50% responsibility for the incident.

However, each case should be dealt with on its own facts and merits, so if you are involved in an incident on a roundabout it is important to obtain, (where you can do so safely), photographs indicating the position of the vehicles at the scene, the damage caused to the vehicles and any relevant road markings.

Most importantly obtain details of any independent witnesses, and obtain/keep safe any cctv or dashcam footage that may demonstrate how the accident occurred.

Please note that this article has been prepared for informational purposes only. The information above is not and should not be taken to be legal advice. You should not take action or omit to take action based on this information.

Hambi Charalambou

Hambi Charalambou Senior Associate