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EDITORIAL: Nervous about the roundabout? I was too

The new roundabout at Hwy 16/Hwy 37 seems to be spinning everybody right round, and round again.
The roundabout at Hwy 16 and Hwy 37 opened to traffic in late November. (Natalia Balcerzak/Terrace Standard)

The new roundabout at Hwy 16/Hwy 37 seems to be spinning everybody right round, and round again.

We’ve gotten a lot of requests lately to explain how drivers can navigate the new traffic circle without losing their minds. Ask and you shall receive.

To be honest, I’ve tried avoiding the roundabout at all costs to escape the inevitable heart-pounding anxiety that comes with approaching the lanes — and I consider myself to be a pretty chill driver.

No one wants to be that person who gets caught going in the wrong direction, or accidentally miss a turn and find yourself in the dizzying vehicle version of a merry-go-round.

But when the time came to leave my safety bubble in Terrace for Kitimat, the experience wasn’t as nerve-wracking as I thought.

READ MORE: Roundabout opens in Terrace at Hwy 16 and Hwy 37

As I rolled up to the first yield sign via Lakelse Avenue, it was a fairly busy afternoon. I looked at the exit for Kitimat, and watched as one car moved through the roundabout using the outside lane, following through to Hwy 37. It helps if someone else shows you how to do it first.

After looking both ways and yielding to oncoming drivers, I turned right into the far lane, continued around, and switched on my right turn signal when I was about to leave. Doing that lets drivers waiting to enter the roundabout and pedestrians waiting to cross know what you’re trying to do.

Then almost as quickly as I entered, I turned onto Highway 37 and off I went to Kitimat. Phew! On a scale of difficulty, I’d probably rate the whole experience a 2 out of 5 — but I wasn’t exactly driving at rush hour.

Drivers used to the four way stop will remember filing up at the stop signs and playing a guessing game of sorts as to who has the right of way. At roundabouts, you won’t find any stop signs or traffic lights — but there are two golden rules to follow, according to the Ministry of Transportation.

The first is to yield to traffic in the roundabout before entering. Then, turn right to enter the roundabout and keep moving counter-clockwise. In multi-lane roundabouts like ours, treat it like you would any other intersection. Would you turn left from a right lane at a signal? If you want to turn left, the left lane is where you want to be. It helps to pick out the correct lane before you drive in so you can avoid the panic of trying to merge in a circling vortex of traffic.

Roundabout. It’s a scary word. But with practice and patience, you too can move through the new traffic circle comfortably, and with your sanity intact.

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