Dangerous Drivers Dissected: Part Two

Posted on Tuesday 20th February 2007 at 00:00
In Part Two of a new series, Ignorminious continues his examination of the most dangerous acts of total stupidity seen on a regular basis on Britain's roads. In this part we look at how not to use a roundabout.

Roundabouts. Today they can be found on virtually every road, in every village, town and city and at pretty much every junction in the country. But what are they for? Why do we need them? How do they work? And why isn't there anything better? Whether or not I'll answer any of these questions today remains to be seen, but it seemed like a cool opening line.

Roundabouts are everywhere today it seems. On my way to university and work I come across three of them. When I go to Tesco there are four of them, and if I take the A4174 Bristol Ring Road to anywhere, there are at least fifteen million, seven hundred and forty two thousand, three hundred and ninety six and a half of the little buggers. Some are big, some are small. Some have lights and lanes and stuff and others just look like a blob of split white paint in the middle of a T junction.

As I understand it, the purpose of a roundabout is to give equal priority at a junction to both the major and minor roads by ensuring that no one really knows exactly who is supposed to go when. The more crowded the junction, the less time everyone has for those crucial decisions and the more confusing it all gets.

Take the other week for example: I arrived at a small roundabout which was in use by every car in the West of England at that very moment. By sheer bad luck, I arrived at exactly the same time as a car from each of the other two exits, and for a moment we all just sat there, staring at each other and wondering who was supposed to go first.

I began to pull out but was beaten to it by first one car and then the other. These were followed by several other vehicles who seemed insistent on making sure I didn't go anywhere fast. Eventually the road seemed clear and so I pulled out onto the roundabout. At that same instant a BMW arrived on the roundabout from my right, going more than a little too fast and we both had to slam on our brakes to avoid bumping up our insurance premiums.

This highlights to me a very clear problem with the way roundabouts are taught to those learning to drive. For some reason driving instructors will tell you that priority is always to the right. Not so. Second priority is to the right, yes, but first is actually to any vehicles already on the roundabout.

The BMW driver clearly made two very dangerous mistakes when approaching the junction. The first was to assume that because his right was clear he must have priority and so didn't need to slow down before reaching the roundabout. This was obviously wrong, since had he slowed down he might have had time to notice that I'd already begun to pull out before he had even reached the give way line, and so I had right of way.

His second mistake was of course to buy a BMW in the first place, since it is a widely known fact that all BMW drivers are by default, and with no known exceptions, complete and utter wankers who should never be allowed on the road. They always drive too fast and are seemingly reckless in every aspect of their driving. Either that on BMW have simply not started fitting brakes to their automobiles yet.

Perhaps the most stupid road layout known to man is the double mini roundabout. These pesky little tossers are a firm favourite of town planners in places where there is absolutely not logical explanation for their being there. One such example can be found near my house, where there is a double mini roundabout to serve a total of four exits. It is basically a wonky cross road and so it should have stayed, or else become a single mini roundabout, but certainly not a double.

The problem with them is that there simply isn't the space to pull off a roundabout straight onto another. How are you supposed to scan ahead when you've arrived before your rear wheels have left the previous one? Most people seem to start treating such peculiar setups as a single roundabout after a while. This works quite well most of the time as you just drive wherever you ruddy well want to.

It can however go to pieces a little when you come across another driver who wishes to cut across your path and is prepared to use the double roundabout to do it, the crafty little fox. If you forget that each roundabout should be treated separately and he doesn't, that no claims bonus is as good as lost.

There are many other roundabout scenarios that I could complain about. Some of the best involve those lanes that cross over each other all the time. Perhaps though I should go now, and leave you to think of a roundabout you love to hate all by yourself.

Good night.

Next time on Dangerous Drivers Dissected: Ignorminious looks at parking on roads and why is isn't a good idea to do it in the middle of a junction!

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