Navigating roundabouts 101

Richard Springer, formerly of Mill Creek, still subscribes to The Daily Herald from Chelan and keeps up on Street Smarts. (Clearly, he is a model citizen, replete with erudition and wit.)

Springer wondered if it might be time for a primer on navigating roundabouts, given their continued proliferation on roadways throughout the state.

In Snohomish County, most communities now have some kind of traffic circle or roundabout. And more roundabouts are planned just about everywhere you look. Further on in this column, you can read about a pair of them planned for Highway 20. Then there’s Highway 9, Highway 530, 36th Avenue W, Soper Hill Road, Filbert Road… (You know what? I’m just going to stop there.)

“I’ve noticed people unsure how to use them properly and efficiently,” Springer wrote. “I was wondering if there is a proper etiquette for using your signals that would make it easier for the other drivers to know each car’s intentions?”

It’s been a few years since our last refresher on navigating roundabouts. So let’s do it again. (And, yes, turn signals are part of it.)

We turn to the Washington State Department of Transportation’s primer, which is available at (There’s also a brochure. And a five-part video series. They are very thorough.)

Key things to remember:

– Yield to drivers in the roundabout

– If nobody’s there, no stop is required

– Don’t change lanes once in the roundabout

– Do not stop in the roundabout

– Use your turn signal just before you exit

I would place extra emphasis on that last one. A quick flick of the blinker to indicate your intentions is easy enough. But because of the short distance between exits in a roundabout, wait until you’re close, rather than turning it on right as you enter which just causes confusion. (On a related note, you don’t need to use your blinker when entering a roundabout. There’s only one direction you can go.)

In multi-lane roundabouts:

– Check the signs to see what lane you need to reach the road you want

– Yield to both lanes of traffic already in the roundabout

Don’t forget to watch for pedestrians. Marked crosswalks typically come before the roundabout, giving drivers more time to react.

And avoid driving next to oversize vehicles, which often need to use the whole roundabout — including the center island — to navigate the tight curve.

If you are a cyclist, you will need to choose whether to act as a vehicle and follow the same rules of the road, or to walk your bicycle through a crosswalk as a pedestrian.

If an emergency vehicle approaches with lights flashing, exit the roundabout and then pull to the right.

Send your questions or topics for Street Smarts to

Talk to us

More in Local News

Marysville firefighters respond to a 12-year-old boy who fell down a well Tuesday May 30, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Photo provided by Marysville Fire District)
Marysville firefighters save boy who fell 20 feet into well

The 12-year-old child held himself up by grabbing on to a plastic pipe while firefighters worked to save him.

Highway 9 is set to be closed in both directions for a week as construction crews build a roundabout at the intersection with Vernon Road. (Washington State Department of Transportation)
Weeklong closure coming to Highway 9 section in Lake Stevens

Travelers should expect delays or find another way from Friday to Thursday between Highway 204 and Lundeen Parkway.

Students arriving off the bus get in line to score some waffles during a free pancake and waffle breakfast at Lowell Elementary School on Friday, May 26, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
800 free pancakes at Everett’s Lowell Elementary feed the masses

The annual breakfast was started to connect the community and the school, as well as to get people to interact.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring speaks at the groundbreaking event for the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$123M project starting on Highway 529 interchange, I-5 HOV lane

A reader wondered why the highway had a lane closure despite not seeing work done. Crews were waiting on the weather.

Justin Bell was convicted earlier this month of first-degree assault for a December 2017 shooting outside a Value Village in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
Court: Snohomish County jurors’ opaque masks didn’t taint verdict

During the pandemic, Justin Bell, 32, went on trial for a shooting. Bell claims his right to an impartial jury was violated.

Gary Fontes uprights a tree that fell over in front of The Fontes Manor — a miniature handmade bed and breakfast — on Friday, May 12, 2023, at his home near Silver Lake in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s mini-Frank Lloyd Wright builds neighborhood of extra tiny homes

A tiny lighthouse, a spooky mansion and more: Gary Fontes’ miniature world of architectural wonders is one-twelfth the size of real life.

Will Steffener
Inslee appoints Steffener as Superior Court judge

Attorney Will Steffener will replace Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis, who is retiring in June.

Kamiak High School is pictured Friday, July 8, 2022, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Kamiak football coach fired amid sexual misconduct investigation

Police believe Julian Willis, 34, sexually abused the student in portable classrooms on Kamiak High School’s campus.

The M/V Puyallup docks at the Edmonds waterfront on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020 in Edmonds. The ferry along with the passenger loading walkway were struck by lightning last week. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Tune in for virtual meeting on Edmonds-Kingston ferry

The series of Washington State Ferries meetings are for updates and public comment. A recording is available online.

Most Read