So it is Halloween and we were thinking about what scary scenarios we could present you this issue and then it hit us… what can be scarier than driving on roundabouts in Fuerteventura? The office has been inundated with messages from concerned drivers about how their worst nightmare is not understanding how roundabouts should be used and I’m sure all of us at one time or another has expressed the same concerns given the way some drivers on the island approach the “art” of tackling a roundabout.
You may be shocked (or not) to discover that 80% of road users in Spain do NOT know how to correctly circulate on a roundabout so lets put that matter to rest and discuss how to properly enter and exit a roundabout without potentially causing a pile up!
Even though there are a number of different types of roundabout, the basic same rules apply for every one of them, i.e., a) on every roundabout, drivers must give priority to those who are already circulating on it, b) if the roundabout has more than one lane, the most adequate one must be chosen dependent on the exit you will later take, c) once you enter a roundabout, vehicles that are already occupying a lane will always have preference over those that need to change lane and to exit a roundabout, d) the vehicle must ALWAYS be situated in the exterior lane.
What does all this mean? Lets discuss the details…
- Drivers approaching a roundabout do not have right of way over those who are already circulating so drivers must wait until a space opens up to allow them to enter the roundabout in a safe manner.
- There are no specific laws about what lane to drive in if more than one is available, however, there are definitely laws about how to safely exit the roundabout and that is that if the vehicle is positioned in an interior lane and wishes to exit, the driver must indicate his wish to enter the next lane over until he reaches the most exterior lane. Once in the most exterior lane, the driver must indicate again in order to exit. The mistake that many drivers make is to exit the roundabout from one of the interior lanes. This is a grave error and a completely illegal maneuver because it means that the path of other vehicles circulating in the outer lanes will be cut off.
- The flow of traffic on a roundabout must be continuous. This means they do not allow for vehicles to stop or reverse for example whilst they are still on them. That is why the above point is so important because if as a driver, you miss your exit because you did not position your vehicle in the most outer lane beforehand, you cannot stop the rest of the traffic by dangerously cutting across other lanes, rather, you must continue on the roundabout and go around again and correctly position yourself in the outer lane before reaching your desired exit.
- Indicators are key as it allows other road users to see what you intend to do before carrying out the maneuver and since many of the roundabouts on the island are actually too small to cater for more than one lane, it becomes essential to let those around us know where we are going at all times.
- Special Case One: Large vehicles sometimes have a hard time driving on narrow roads and small roundabouts so sometimes it is necessary for drivers of such vehicles to take other measures. For example, a lorry driver may have to open up towards the left and/or invade the neighbouring lane in order to enter a roundabout to avoid driving over the pavement or embankment. In these cases, the driver must first respect the priority the vehicles that are already situated in that lane before proceeding with the maneuver.
- Special Case Two: We are all very well aware of the number of cyclists on the island, resident and tourist so we must pay special heed to this scenario. A group of cyclists takes priority over motor vehicles if when circulating as a group, the leader enters the roundabout as it means that the group as a whole must be allowed to enter, in effect, the group must be viewed as a sole vehicle beginning the with the lead cyclist and ending with the last in the group, so another vehicle on the roundabout cannot force the group to break up. The same applies when the group wishes to exit the roundabout.
Now, I learnt to drive in the Canaries and I will never forget my driving instructor telling me textually, that nobody here seems to know how to use a roundabout so the safest option is to drive in the outer lane so that if anybody hits you, it will always be their fault. Hopefully this explanation will have cleared up any doubts any of you may have had about this subject and you will no longer live in fear of the dreaded Fuerteventura roundabouts.