Howler Magazine - - Adventure - By Karl Kahler

The ro­tonda, or round­about, is a traf­fic con­trol de­vice in­vented by Satan to ter­rify for­eign­ers. Many ex­tran­jeros may have never ex­pe­ri­enced the heart-pound­ing con­fu­sion as­so­ci­ated with be­ing forced to ne­go­ti­ate a ma­jor in­ter­sec­tion in the form of a cir­cle, es­pe­cially one that has two or three cir­cu­lar lanes and hun­dreds of cars driv­ing all over the place with no ap­par­ent rhyme or rea­son.

We're here to help, so here are our five rules for ne­go­ti­at­ing a ro­tonda.

The cars that are al­ready in the ro­tonda have the right of way.

When you ap­proach a busy ro­tonda, you have to stop, look to your left, and wait un­til there's an open­ing in traf­fic. You may have to wait a long time, de­pend­ing on which lane you need (see below). Try not to worry about driv­ers wait­ing im­pa­tiently be­hind you — though if you miss an easy open­ing, who­ever is be­hind you may honk at you.

Even­tu­ally you will see an open­ing when the near­est on­com­ing car veers right to exit. When this hap­pens, step on the gas, turn the wheel to the right and join the ro­tonda traf­fic. The good news is, now you have the right of way be­cause you're in the ro­tonda, and all those sorry suck­ers at the next en­trances will have to wait un­til you whiz past.

Choose your lane wisely.

As you ap­proach the ro­tonda, know where you need to exit, and choose the cor­rect lane to en­ter. Let's say you're ap­proach­ing a ro­tonda with four ex­its and there ap­pear to be three cir­cu­lar lanes sur­round­ing it (though un­marked).

The eas­i­est op­tion is if you need to take the first exit, at 3 o'clock — in other words, you need to turn right. You sim­ply ap­proach the in­ter­sec­tion in the right lane and make your move when it's clear.

Se­cond in de­gree of dif­fi­culty is if you need to take the se­cond exit, at 12 o'clock — in other words, you need to go straight. If there are three lanes of straight traf­fic ap­proach­ing three lanes of cir­cu­lar traf­fic, you need to ap­proach from the mid­dle lane and stay in the mid­dle lane as you round the cir­cle, then merge into the right lane to exit.

The tough­est ma­neu­vers are if you need to take the third or fourth ex­its, at 9 o'clock or 6 o'clock — i.e., turn left or do a U-turn. In this case, you need to ap­proach from the left lane and dive straight to the in­ner­most ro­tonda lane. Then you drive around the cir­cle and merge your way out­ward when you need to make your exit.

Do not even think of timidly driv­ing around the out­side lane, far­thest from the cir­cle, if you need to do a 270- or 360-de­gree cir­cuit. This causes ac­ci­dents, be­cause the out­side lanes are for peo­ple who are about to exit, and you can­not be put­ter­ing around in their path when they're gun­ning to leave the cir­cle.

Speed is your friend.

With apolo­gies to lit­tle old ladies, do not drive like a lit­tle old lady. Mon­i­tor the speed of traf­fic and match it — not too fast, but not too slow either. You need to drive at about the same speed as ev­ery­one else — though oc­ca­sion­ally a bit slower or faster to jockey for po­si­tion. Higher speeds al­low less room for er­ror and re­quire faster tim­ing, but higher speeds can also save you a lot of honk­ing horns.

Cars on the in­side must be al­lowed to exit right.

Among the cars that are al­ready in the ro­tonda, the ones clos­est to the mid­dle have the right of way over those in the outer lanes. An­other way of say­ing this is that cars on the in­side must be al­lowed to exit right when they're good and ready. This means that if you're in the mid­dle of three cir­cu­lar lanes, and a car to your left is gun­ning to get out, you need to get out of its way.

The up­side of this equa­tion is that if you are in the in­ner­most lane, then cars to your right have to get out of your way. Use your turn sig­nal, as other driv­ers can­not read your mind, and merge right when it's safe.

Ob­vi­ously, the di­rec­tion of all round­abouts in Costa Rica is coun­ter­clock­wise.

If you haven't fig­ured this out yet, you should prob­a­bly in­cin­er­ate your driver's li­cense and just take the bus.

You're welcome. Happy driv­ing!

This­traf­fic­cir­cle nea rm y old house in San José, the "Ro­tonda de rantíasSo­ciales," was where learned to shed fears,p the ham­mer down and go with the flow. Photo: Arq. Jose Maria Arias Espinoza, CR­dronemap­ping.

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