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Jessie Levine
Town Manager
New London, NH

July 20, 2010

By my own observation and the observations of others, it appears to be time for a refresher on how to drive in the roundabout at the intersection of Newport and County roads. Of primary importance is that with the installation of the roundabout, drivers on Newport Road no longer have the right of way. The right of way belongs to the car that is in the roundabout, regardless of the car’s point of entry. 

First, a brief primer: the term “modern roundabout” is used in the United States to differentiate it from traffic circles or rotaries that have been in use for many years. Traffic circles, such as the ones in Epsom, Portsmouth, and even Mount Sunapee, are known for large diameters that allow vehicles to enter and negotiate at high speeds.

In contrast, modern roundabouts have two basic principles: 1) yield-at-entry, which gives the right of way to vehicles in the circle and requires other vehicles to yield before entering; and 2) deflection of entering traffic, which means that no traffic can move straight through the intersection because the central island deflects vehicles to the right, thus lowering speeds.

As an aside, two weeks ago a driver who was paying more attention to his GPS than to the road attempted to go straight through the roundabout, but did not make it past the trees. Had the roundabout not been there, he could have had a head-on collision with oncoming traffic. Importantly, there have been no accidents attributable to the roundabout itself. In 2009, one accident resulted from a drunk driver who drove straight into the center island, and a second accident occurred when a driver with a medical episode could not negotiate the turns and ended up on the lawn of Ledyard Bank. In both cases, as in the case two weeks ago, the roundabout may have prevented a more serious accident.

Here are some basic roundabout rules to keep in mind:

For motor vehicles and bicycles: Studies show that converting intersections from traffic signals or stop signs to roundabouts reduced all crashes by 40%, reduced injury-causing crashes by 80% and reduced fatal or incapacitating crashes by 90%. This is because of reduced speeds and better driver awareness.

  • Slow down: the speed limit on Newport and County roads is 30 MPH. Slow down as you approach the roundabout; your entry speed should be 15-20 MPH.

  • Yield upon entry: look to your left, and enter the roundabout only after yielding to cars on your left (this should be no different from taking a right turn out of your driveway). If there is traffic, stop until you have an opening. If there is no traffic, enter the roundabout at reduced speed without stopping. These rules are the same for traffic entering from Newport Road or County Road.

  • Once in, don’t stop: once you enter the roundabout, you now have the right-of-way and should not stop for incoming vehicles.


  • Bicycles: claim the lane! Do not enter the roundabout alongside a motor vehicle; enter in single file and use the whole lane until you exit.

  • Drivers: watch for cyclists! Bicyclists must follow the rules of the road, so treat them as you would any other motor vehicle (keeping in mind that bicyclists are far more vulnerable than other drivers).

  • Use your turn signal: a key to roundabout cooperation is using your signal to indicate your exit from the roundabout, which will signal to incoming cars that you will be leaving the roundabout before reaching them, thus allowing them to enter sooner. In fact, RSA 265:45 requires the use of turn signals: “No person shall so turn any vehicle without giving an appropriate signal ….”

  • What the heck, go around again: the beauty (and fun) of the roundabout is that if you miss your turn, you can go around again!

For pedestrians: Studies show a 73-75% reduction in pedestrian crashes after construction of roundabouts. This is due to the reduction of conflict points (traditional four-way intersections have more opportunity for vehicle-pedestrian encounters), the protected median splitter island, and the shorter crossing distance that allows pedestrians to cross without dodging or interfering with traffic from both directions.

  • Don’t jaywalk: always stay on the designated walkways approaching and leaving the roundabout.

  • Be aware: wait for an acceptable gap in traffic before entering the crosswalk. Look for oncoming cars before entering the crosswalk (the beauty is that you only have to look in one direction at a time).

  • Don’t tempt fate: keep in mind that it is not state law that cars must stop to let you cross. Only enter the crosswalk when there are no cars coming or when you are certain that all oncoming traffic is yielding to you.

  • Stop to rest: walk to the splitter island, which offers a safe refuge between the two directions of traffic and allows you to concentrate on traffic coming from only one direction at a time. Wait for an acceptable gap in traffic before entering the second leg of the crosswalk and proceed safely to the other side.

  • Don’t smell the flowers! NEVER cross to the center island.

  • Watch for bicyclists and skateboarders: roadside paths and crosswalks are often shared by bicyclists and pedestrians. 

Feedback from the community has been quite positive since the roundabout was completed in the fall of 2008. Even some who openly opposed the roundabout have let me know that they now approve. Early opponents have even become advocates for additional roundabouts at other problematic intersections. The old saying is true: what goes around, comes around. 


Jessie Levine, Town Administrator
375 Main Street
New London, NH 03257
603-526-4821 extension 13
Fax: 603-526-9494

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