How to safely navigate roundabouts in Michigan


One Michigan study claimed that every single-lane roundabout on average added about $500,000 to the economy in increased productivity. (Shutterstock image)

Confused about roundabouts? You’re not alone.

Designed to reduce speeds and serious crashes, roundabouts also have a tendency to increase confusion among some drivers. As Michigan slowly joins other states in adding roundabouts, here are some facts and tips:

Traditional intersections are dangerous

About 37,000 people per year die in car crashes nationwide (including about 1,000 in Michigan), according to federal statistics. About 40 percent of all injury-related crashes occur at intersections, involving some 767,000 people.

Roundabouts are designed to slow traffic and eliminate the sharpest angles of turns that cause the most serious crashes. The tradeoff: At some roundabouts, less-serious sideswipes actually increase.

By the numbers

  • Roundabouts decrease traffic jams compared to red lights. One Michigan study claimed that every single-lane roundabout on average added about $500,000 to the economy in increased productivity.
  • Safety increases, big-time: Overall, crashes decline 38 percent at intersections converted to roundabouts, while fatalities fall some 90 percent and injuries drop 70 percent or more, according to one study.
  • Michigan follows trend: At the 47 roundabouts on state roads, 92 percent of crashes involved no reported injuries in 2018, compared to 73 percent of crashes at traditional trunkline intersections in the same year, state records show.
  • USA lags: By most estimates, the United States has about 5,000 roundabouts, compared to 10,000 in the United Kingdom and 30,000 in France.

Roundabout rules

  • Slow down. 
  • Pick a lane and stay in it.
  • Follow the road sign markings.
  • Yield to drivers in the roundabout.
  • Don’t stop in a roundabout, even for emergency vehicles.
  • Stay in your lane. 
  • Don’t pass trucks.

What about crashes?

  • While roundabouts decrease crashes on average nationwide, studies in Michigan suggest minor ones actually increase with many roundabouts. Some suggest the crashes decline in a few years, but Michigan state records aren’t available to back up the assertion.

You’re at fault in roundabouts if: your car enters the roundabout and strikes another vehicle; you exit in a different lane than the ones designed by lane signs; a crash occurs when you change lanes; you rear-end another car, according to the Michigan Auto Law firm.

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Michael Malecki...
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 8:25am

WHY???? Why would you publish a tutorial video that shows a european union (left lane) approach to a roundabout??? Sadly, some very native or confused driver is now bound to veer into the lane when approaching a roundabout causing a horrific head-on collision.

Very poor editorial work on this article.

Michael Malecki, RN, CBIS
M & M Home Care

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 8:27am

Why in the world you have a British video describing roundabouts? The first thing you show is making a left turn into the roundabout. If people need help with understanding roundabouts, this is not the way to start.

jesse atwell
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 8:55am

Roundabouts are the direct result of state gov't's leaping into action before they think about the collateral results. There are several factors that should be considered before stuffing them down our throats. First, there is no standardization on size. Different Roundabouts are different running thru them is definitely a challenge because nothing is ever the same. Secondly, exiting at the right place requires a great deal of warning signage in order to prepare drivers properly to make the right decision and position themselves properly at the right time and place to make their move. Every roundabout in Michigan is different. Making decisions at night in the rain or snow in an unfamiliar situation is not easy using any of them. The State should stop trying to implement them until standards are established firmly and conveniently. Pressing drivers to make decisions in a vacuum is just plain stupid.

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 8:55am

That the BIG problem with roundabouts no one Yield to drivers in the roundabout seems that scene they took driver training out of High Schools the kids are not tough to yield and they end up dead or the kill some one<<<<< Time (scene Sears is out of business) to put drivers training back in high school!!! Sears was the company that took schools to court to stop drivers training!

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 8:57am

I thought I'd view the video to make sure I'm doing roundabouts right. The video provided was produced across the pond so things are a bit backwards from the US point of view. Here's information from the State of Michigan with videos and handouts and instructions for a few specific trickier roundabouts.,4616,7-151-9615_53039---,00.html

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 8:57am

Sorry, but this video did not inspire learning and it did not demonstrate how to navigate a roundabouts in heavy traffic. I'll look elsewhere.

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 9:08am

Why use a Missouri video when there is one for Michigan?

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 9:18am

Carmel, Indiana (one of, if not the fastest growing city in Indiana) went all in on roundabouts years ago. They have now installed over 100. Great example to look at.

Hippie Chris
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 9:20am

Americans don't know how to use their blinker lights. That's the most important rule to safely using a roundabout. And if someone is too confused to use a roundabout, they shouldn't be driving.

Gerry Niedermaier
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 10:10am

Roundabouts are fine provided one knows the area and where to go. The issue for me is encountering one with poor signage, snow covering the directional arrows, trucks blocking ones view, etc. , in a community I am unfamiliar with. They are not the panacea.

Dave Renwick
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 1:06pm

The Missouri video shows perhaps the biggest flaw in Michigan roundabouts; Missouri has YIELD signs at roundabout entrances, Michigan doesn't, and LOTS of folks DON'T slow down enough when approaching/entering roundabouts as a result. The YIELD signs would also assist pedestrians and bicyclists attempting to cross roundabouts, which right now is a very bad experience if you have ever tried to cross one on foot at rush hour. Also, if education about roundabouts is the key why wasn't a video like this played repeatedly as a public service message on TV a year BEFORE roundabouts were installed, and why isn't one repeatedly played now that roundabouts have been forced on us?

Sat, 01/25/2020 - 11:43pm

Not sure where you are driving, Dave, but all the Michigan roundabouts I have encountered have yield signs at all entrances. I just drove several new ones in Marquette, as well as ones that have been in place for years, and all were well-signed. Traffic was flowing well, and the snowbanks didn't pose any more issues than at traditional intersections. Actually the snow was more of an issue in traditional intersections, since if I got hit pulling out I would likely be T-boned rather than sideswiped. I am a cyclist, and have cycled through roundabouts in Europe with no problem. However, drivers there are generally very respectful of cyclists (except in big cities, where driving is a colossal game of "chicken") as well as being used to roundabouts.

I do have to agree that roundabouts are not very pedestrian-friendly, but let's face it, this is the United States where sidewalks are often non-existent and most of us drive way too much anyway. Roundabouts are just one of the many challenges pedestrians face in most communities.

Scott Batson
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 3:27pm

there are a lot of videos on line about how to drive a roundabout.

Mon, 01/27/2020 - 11:26am

I once got caught on the Lee Rd. Whirly- gig and went around 6 times before figuring how to get off- much to the enjoyment of my grandkid passengers.

Sat, 01/25/2020 - 12:24am

Roundabouts are great, use your signal for right or left turns, yield to drivers already in the circle, and put down your phone. BTW your map missed the circle at Park Lake road and Burcham St. in East Lansing.

Sun, 01/26/2020 - 12:30am

The only thing difficult about round-a-bouts is to learn to YIELD TO TRAFFIC COMING FROM OUR LEFT. All our driving careers in America, we’ve been yielding to the car on our right, and assuming we have the right-of-way from
cars on our left. Once I learned this exception to normal driving rules, , I had no problems with round-a-bouts.

Sun, 01/26/2020 - 12:30am

The only thing difficult about round-a-bouts is to learn to YIELD TO TRAFFIC COMING FROM OUR LEFT. All our driving careers in America, we’ve been yielding to the car on our right, and assuming we have the right-of-way from
cars on our left. Once I learned this exception to normal driving rules, , I had no problems with round-a-bouts.