Roundabout yield rules are the opposite of standard intersections

The in basket: Joan Dingfield asks, “Can you find out why the yield directions on roundabouts are exactly opposite of what state law states about rights-of-way?

“When cars arrive at an intersection at the same time, it is the car on the right that has the right-of-way. When approaching a roundabout, however, it is the car to your left you need to yield to.”

The out basket: As a practical matter, applying the standard right of way rule to a roundabout would create havoc in them and they’d never get built. Imagine the chaos of drivers stopping to let just one car into the roundabout, let alone a stream of them. Soon the circle would be blocked even if there were no rear-end collisions.

But a formal answer to Joan’s question comes from Brian Walsh, state  highways’ traffic design and operations manager.

“The ‘yield to the right law’ is the rule at a standard intersection where the intersection is considered an  ‘uncontrolled intersection.’ Brian said. “Many neighborhood intersections are typically uncontrolled, therefore the basic rule is for the driver to ‘yield to the vehicle approaching’ from the right when arriving at the intersection.  If an intersection has a stop or yield sign or signal on an approach, it is considered a ‘controlled intersection,”’and the placement of the traffic control defines the rules for drivers.

“Roundabouts are considered controlled intersections that have a ‘yield’ and ‘one-way’ sign on every approach. The ‘one way’ and ‘yield’ signs direct drivers to proceed to the right of the central island, and to yield to anyone already circulating in the roundabout in front of them. The signs are the determining factors, per state statute, in assigning fault in the event of a collision.”

A reader who signed only as Ben offered another possible rationalization in a comment on the Road Warrior blog at He notes that state law regarding entering an intersection also says ““…after slowing or stopping, the driver shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection…” If a car in a roundabout might be considered “in the intersection,” that might cover it too.


2 thoughts on “Roundabout yield rules are the opposite of standard intersections

  1. Weird, I never considered that the yield to the right could even apply. If two vehicles are both approaching a roundabout at the same time, there shouldn’t be a conflict at all, as they do not cross like normal intersections.

    Otherwise, you are yielding to a vehicle that has already entered the intersection, which also applies to standard intersections.
    “…after slowing or stopping, the driver shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection…”
    Note #3.

  2. Another way to look at it is that the vehicles coming from the right do not cross your path.
    You are in effect entering a one way street at a T intersection. You certainly would not usually look to the right for wrong way drivers, though you probably should, so you would only normally yield to those drivers approaching from the left – even if you did not have a stop or yield sign at a regular T intersection.

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