How to drive in the roundabout capital of the U.S.

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I recently asked readers of Current in Carmel what kinds of stories they want to see in print. Several people said they wanted to read a story about “how people don’t know how to drive through roundabouts.” Carmel is the roundabout capital of the United States, with more than 100 constructed and about 30 more on the way.

So I sought opinions on the common mistakes people make when driving through a roundabout. I posted on Twitter and Facebook and was flooded with public and private responses.

Some people suggested common sense things for anywhere on the road, such as “Don’t text and drive” or “Don’t speed.”

I laughed at how many people say they see people go clockwise through a roundabout, which means they turned turn into traffic instead of turning right. I hope that isn’t a common occurrence. Scary.

But the two biggest mistakes: braking and changing lanes.

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard strongly tells people that you’re not supposed to stop inside of a roundabout to let other drivers in. You’ll likely cause an accident and be hit from behind.

He also says motorists shouldn’t be too timid and wait for someone completely on the other side of a roundabout to go through before entering. Just jump in when there’s a safe opening. It’ll help traffic keep moving, which is the point of roundabouts. Or one of the main reasons, at least.

People say they see roundabout drivers make a complete stop before entering an empty roundabout as if it were a four-way stop. That’s unnecessary, and the motorists behind you might be annoyed.

Single-lane roundabouts are easy to navigate, but double-lane ones can be trickier for motorists because they don’t know which lane they’re supposed to be in or when to change lanes. It is not advised to change lanes in the middle of a roundabout. Here’s what you do: To go straight or right, get in the right lane. To go straight or left, or make a make U-turn, get in the left lane.

It’s also important to use your right turn signal when you plan to exit the roundabout.

City Councilor Bruce Kimball said speed is a big factor, especially since roundabouts are often used for pedestrian crosswalks. He said if everyone slows down and pays attention, other issues won’t be as big of a deal.

City Councilor Jeff Worrell said he’s always having constituents ask him what to do about bad roundabout drivers.

“Here’s my advice: slow down, always look left twice and pay attention to the markings on your lane,” he said.

Worrell said he hopes everyone gets familiar with the roundabouts but knows there will always be a few newcomers.

“You chuckle, but you hope that every year that it gets better,” he said. “Every year we have new people moving to town, and so there’s always new people who aren’t familiar with them. You have to be aware that someone else might be new to roundabouts and pay attention.”

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