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Drivers on new Carlisle 'bypass' don't know how to use roundabouts - claim

Motorists are getting themselves in a spin over how to handle the roundabouts on Carlisle’s new western 'bypass', it has emerged.

Safe driving photo
Lesley Johnston in a still from the video

Driving instructor Vicci Smith, 27, fears it is only a matter of time before there is a serious accident on the city’s new relief road because many local motorists seem confused by the roundabouts.

Vicci and two fellow instructors – Lesley Johnston and Michelle Dunning – want to highlight the problem.

The trio are setting up an advanced drivers’ network, but they fear many Carlisle motorists are being left stumped by the nine roundabouts on the new road, known formerly as the Carlisle Northern Development Route.

In particular, drivers seem to be unaware of the so-called 12 o’clock rule, whereby they enter the roundabout in the right-hand lane if turning right, and switching lanes only after they pass the exit before the one they are taking.

Instead, some drivers turning right are stubbornly staying in the left-hand lane all the way round, obstructing or cutting across motorists trying to leave the roundabout. Vicci said: “We have asked a lot of drivers what the problem with the roundabouts and they’re saying that it’s because they’re new.

“They say that they don’t know how to use them.

“A lot of drivers in this area will have learned to drive a long time ago, and may only use the McVitie’s roundabout and Hardwicke Circus.

“On the new relief road, they’re using the left-hand lane all the way round. So people trying to come off the roundabout find their exit obstructed by them, or they are being cut up by them.

“Because they’re doing that, other people are starting to do it and so the problem could be multiplying.

“It seems to be happening all the time and I believe it’s going to cause an accident. I’ve had to accelerate to get in front of vehicles staying in the left lane to turn right.

“Pupils have had to go round the roundabout again because their exit was blocked.”

Vicci believes motorists who learn in big cities such as Manchester or Newcastle learn to cope with roundabouts through experience – but in Carlisle there are not that many complicated roads or roundabouts.

She added: “If you don’t get the chance to practice a skill you can forget it.

“We have spoken to drivers with years of experience who don’t drive on these bigger roads and who have forgotten the rules of the road. People shouldn’t be afraid to ask and we are happy to advise them.”

In a letter sent to our sister paper The Cumberland News last week, Neil Johnston, of Holmrook Road, Carlisle, said he had had five near-misses on CNDR roundabouts since the road opened a few weeks ago.

He said: “The standard of driving of drivers using roundabouts is appalling. I am beginning to think it is only a matter of time before there is an accident.”

Anybody who wants to ask Vicci’s advice can email her at She and the other two instructors have also set up an advanced drivers’ group on Facebook.

Have your say

Sorry to bump a diffused discussion.

Things have not improved.

Each day I am overtaking people on the inside lane on these roundabouts, safely of course, to get ahead of those who continue to use the outside lane for maintaining their route along the same road (it seems obvious what their intentions are after only two roundabouts - the CNDR). However, I will not accept the risk should I not be able to safely negotiate the exit without other drivers having to change speed. Many times I have gone round again, for my exit being blocked.

@Anon on 7 March 2012 at 19:26:- the twelve o' clock rule, as I understand it, is a simplification of the highway code taught by instructors and does not apply to those rules on marked lanes. If your exit is posted as being past twelve o' clock you should indicate right and take the appropriate inner lane if available (with two lanes you would direct your vehicle to the innermost), giving way to traffic until that route is available. Then indicating to the right until you have passed the last exit before your destination, you should then indicate left to change lanes and proceed to exit the roundabout if the lane and following exit are safely clear (checking your left mirror and glancing to your left blind-spot, if necessary beforehand). If you are unable to exit safely, you should continue to indicate right, continuing in the appropriate inner lane until the last exit before your chosen destination when, the above applies once again. Yes, this is not documented like this in the highway code however, it does simplify a rather complex explanation of the appropriate use of an unmarked roundabout.

This was not a dig at you Anon, just a clarification of a point I made earlier with reference to your comment.

For those who are teaching new drivers, thank you for your patience. Our roads are safer if that patience and forethought is applied every time after a new driver has passed their driving test. They have only proven that the law has considered them safe to learn by themselves.

If some personal traffic management could be applied to this route temporarily, this may help regular commuters to learn to use this new road safely. I would immediately suggest police presence however, knowing there is a lack of resource, a suitable substitute: lanes marked with arrows for ahead-left and right would make a world of difference as a previous poster has rightly pointed out.

That is my rant and again I have stubs for fingers. A fake elbow and metal jaw were not enough you see? I am proud to be wrong, and am very pleased to learn.

Posted by Mike on 7 June 2012 at 23:17

A more common issue is that there seem to be many drivers who ignore the 12 o clock rule when planning to continue ahead on these roundabouts. I have had a couple of close calls because some plonker behind me has come along side me to turn off at the same exit. To sort this out people don't need advanced driver training or a driver network, that's a waste of time and the ignorant folk who cause the problem won't listen anyway.

If you want mindless sheep to follow the route you want them too, you just point them in the reight direction. All it would take is some arrows in each lane as you approach each roundabout. It's what they do in the rest of the country. I'm not quite sure why this simple measure hasn't been used here.

Posted by Simon on 6 April 2012 at 07:25

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