Amongst other glaring differences between driving in the UK and South Africa, is the extensive use of roundabouts (traffic circles) over there. These make perfect sense and result in an even and uninterrupted flow of traffic, with one major proviso. You have to know how to drive a roundabout. What will disrupt the flow completely (and probably result in some massive pile-ups) would be an overloaded mini-bus taxi charging into a roundabout without looking left or right.
We do have traffic circles in SA (Welkom has plenty) but the efficiency of some of the major roundabouts has been somewhat diluted by the installation of traffic lights. This defeats the object.
Here is an illustration of how a two-lane traffic circle should be negotiated, bearing in mind that you aways yield to vehicles already in the circle, ie. approaching from your right.
One of the major advantages of traffic circles is that they continue to operate even when power failures occur and traffic lights are affected. In the UK and Ireland, even motorway intersections are controlled by roundabouts.
What I found extremely helpful when approaching a roundabout, and not quite understanding what the GPS was talking about, was to circle the roundabout until I made up my mind what I wanted to do. Nobody was any the wiser because the drivers I met on my first circle were long gone by the time I got around again. Theoretically, one could circle a roundabout all day long without attracting any attention. This is how well they flow. I did have a humorous situation in Dublin however, while circling a busy roundabout trying to decide which direction to go, when I spotted another driver doing exactly the same with his wife also frantically trying to read a map.
They do appear to use more land, but only the major intersections would have to have a large circle. Sometimes a small raised circle in an intersection would suffice. (mm, maybe not in South Africa)
Once built they require very little maintenance, other than some landscaping with plants in the middle, if required.
If we embarked on a major roll-out of roundabouts in this country, I believe an education process would be necessary. One could even station traffic officers at a new roundabout for a few days to check for compliance with the basic rules, pulling over cars and taxis not complying and showing them how it’s done.
We have a similar lack of eduction at present when there are power failures and traffic lights should revert to 4-way stops. Try explaining to a speeding mini-bus taxi that he has to wait his turn and you’ll get a simple, Eish.
In closing, I spotted a really interesting road safety sign in Ireland during my travels. This is what it said;
24 people have lost their lives
on the roads of Kilkenny in the last 4 years.
STOP THE CARNAGE
Makes you think, doesn’t it?