Which lane, which indicator – how to use roundabouts. AA Ireland

A photo of the St Peter's Rd approach to the Walkinstown Roundabout showing the sign with the destinations for each exit

Walkinstown, Dunkettle, Polestar, Bundle of Sticks, Browne… The roundabout is a common feature on Irish roads, and sometimes it feels like every driver has a pet roundabout that they just hate. Roundabouts, or “gyratory circuses” as they were once known (yes, really), are generally installed to make a junction safer and keep traffic flowing. They do, however, require extra care and attention on approach.

Thankfully, in Ireland, we don’t have anything as complicated as England’s “Magic Roundabout” in Swindon (five mini-roundabouts forming one giant two-way ring) or France’s Rond-Point de L’Étoile (the infamous roundabout around the L’Arc de Triomphe with anything up to 12 unmarked lanes) but we do have a variety of mini-roundabouts, lane configurations and large interchanges.

The most important rules for any roundabout, whether it has one lane or six, are yield and indicate.

Yield: who has right of way?

You always yield to traffic that’s already on the roundabout and traffic coming from your right. Don’t enter the roundabout until it’s clear from your right – this may mean waiting until someone is exiting onto the road you’re waiting to enter from. All roundabouts are one way (clockwise, if you imagine your entry point as 6 o’clock), so you drive towards the left as you enter. Driving the wrong way as you enter a roundabout and ignoring a mini-roundabout are both penalty-point offences in Ireland – both can result in 1 penalty point and a €60 fine.

Keep an eye out for pedestrians crossing the road as you’re waiting. If there are traffic lights on the roundabout, always follow those and make sure it’s safe to go when you get the green.

Indicate: which indicator should I use on a roundabout?

If you’re taking the first exit off any roundabout, your left indicator should be on.

If you’re going straight ahead, or taking any exit that’s to the left but after the first one, then do not indicate at all on approach. Turn on your left indicator after you pass the exit before yours.

If you’re taking any exit at all to the right, or coming off at the same road you entered from (essentially doing a U-turn), turn on your right indicator on approach to the roundabout. Then switch to the left indicator once you pass the exit before yours.

In all cases, turning on your left indicator tells other drivers that you are taking the next exit. Remember, though, that indicating doesn’t automatically grant you right of way – be careful when changing lanes and watch out for pedestrians crossing the road you’re about to exit onto.

A photo of the Walkinstown Roundabout with a white car driving around it.

Which lane should I be in on approach to a roundabout?

Roundabouts commonly have two lanes on approach, although smaller roundabouts may have only one and big interchanges can have as many as four.

Firstly, watch out for signage – if the local signage tells you which lane to use for which destination, follow those rules.

When there’s no signage, the ”golden rule” in the Rules of the Road is to picture the roundabout as a clock with your entrance as 6 o’clock. If you’re taking any exit between 6 and 12, stay in the left lane. Going straight ahead (exiting at 12), you can use either lane – generally keep left, but if there is a long queue turning left, then you can take the right lane. If your exit is after 12 o’clock (ie. any exit to the right), then approach the roundabout in the right lane.

Stay in your lane as you enter the roundabout, and only move left once you have indicated that you’re taking the next exit. Watch out for others when changing lane, yielding to any traffic already in the lane, and be especially mindful of cyclists who may stay to the left of a roundabout.

A photo of the Greenhills Rd approach to the Walkinstown Roundabout, showing the three lanes and one car just entering the main roundabout.

What about roundabouts with three or four lanes?

Many roundabouts with multiple lanes will have signage decreeing which lane you should use, so always follow those rules, and remember you still need to indicate. Some don’t, however: Walkinstown Roundabout, we’re looking at you.

In the case of the Walkinstown Roundabout, the dreaded foe of many Dublin learners, there are three lanes and six exits. Most approach roads also have three lanes, although the Ballymount Rd only has two lanes on approach (with the left leading onto the left lane of the roundabout, and the right leading to the other two)

People tend to use one of two strategies for Walkinstown and other similar roundabouts. They either divide it up as two exits per lane, so use the first lane for the first two exits, the middle lane if they’re exiting at the third or fourth, and the right lane if they’re exiting at the fifth or sixth. Or, people will use the left lane for the first exit only, then the middle lane for exits 2 to 4, and the right lane for the fifth or sixth.

The important thing here is to follow all the usual rules – yield to the right, don’t change lanes without observing and making sure it’s clear, and indicate properly. Stay in your lane as you enter the roundabout (look at the road markings). Only indicate left when you’re exiting at the next road, and look in all your mirrors before moving left. As always, watch out for cyclists to your left and pedestrians crossing the road that you are about to join.

What if you miss your exit?

If you miss your exit or find yourself in the wrong lane at the last minute, then continue around. Never attempt to turn back or reverse on a roundabout. Continue around a second time with your right indicator on, and then switch to left when your exit is next. Always watch out for others and don’t change lanes without all the usual checks.

This is part of a series on driving advice – for our motorway FAQs see here.