Intersections and roundabouts

Knowing the rules helps keep you safe

Knowing the rules helps keep you safe

Intersections can be complex with many vehicles, riders and pedestrians all travelling in different directions. Knowing the rules that apply,
no matter whether it’s a small or a large intersection, can help keep you safe on the road.

Intersections

Filtered right turns

Many signalised intersections in Victoria, particularly older installations, have traffic lights that do not have right turn arrows. When turning right at these locations this is known as a ‘filtered right turn’ as turning traffic filters through the oncoming traffic.

For more information see the section making turns.

Red light arrow drop-out

At some intersections after a period of time, the red turn arrow switches off leaving no turning arrow displayed. This is known as ‘red arrow drop-out’.

In this scenario a driver must stop and obey the red arrow. Once the arrow drops out, a driver must obey any remaining traffic lights.

If the remaining traffic light is green the driver may start to turn right as you would at an intersection without arrow lights. This means giving way to any oncoming vehicles going straight ahead or turning left (except if turning left using a slip lane) and any pedestrians at or near the intersection on the road the driver is turning into.

At some intersections once the arrow drops out there are no other traffic lights present.  In this case, the driver turning is allowed to start their turn after giving way as above.

Slip lanes

A slip lane is an area of road for vehicles turning left that is separated, at some point, from other parts of the road by a painted island or traffic island.

Where a slip lane is provided a driver must use the slip lane to turn left unless there is an obstruction that prevents the driver from doing so. In this case, the driver must turn left using the left lane.

When turning right at an intersection (Car A in the example to the right), the driver does not have to give way to an oncoming vehicle turning left using a slip lane (Car B).

RACV advice on slip lanes

'Stop' vs 'Give Way' signs - what is the difference?

A car facing a Stop sign is obliged to stop and give way to a vehicle in, entering or approaching the intersection except for oncoming vehicles turning right and oncoming vehicles turning left at a slip lane.

A car facing a Give Way sign is obliged to give way to a vehicle in, entering or approaching the intersection except for oncoming vehicles turning right and oncoming vehicles turning left at a slip lane. The only difference here is that there is no need to come to a complete stop.
 
Different signs on opposite sides of the intersection can be common in rural areas, and confusion can often arise as to which movement has priority. Some drivers incorrectly assume that because they are facing a Give Way sign, they automatically have priority over another driver who is facing a Stop sign.

It can help to think about it from the perspective of the other driver. If they are facing a Give Way sign, they can’t necessarily see that you are facing a Stop Sign, and would generally assume you are facing the same control as them.

Traffic lights at freeway entry ramps (ramp metering)

At some freeway entry ramps, traffic lights control vehicles entering the freeway. These lights generally operate during peak traffic times or when traffic is congested, although they do operate 24/7 at some locations.

The lights make merging onto the freeway safer and easier by spacing out merging vehicles. This reduces the disruption caused to vehicles already on the freeway that is caused by vehicles merging from on-ramps.

When the lights begin to operate, the yellow light will flash for around one minute. The lights will then turn red and drivers on the entry ramp must stop at the stop line. The lights will then start to go through a green, yellow, red cycle.

The red traffic light means drivers must stop, and must not proceed until the light turns to green, just like standard red traffic lights at intersections. Only one vehicle may enter the freeway from each lane, unless signs state otherwise. Some freeway ramp signals allow trucks or vehicles with multiple people (T2) to bypass the lights for priority access onto the freeway.

Traffic lights not working

If traffic lights at an intersection are out, flashing yellow or not working properly for any reason, a driver must give way as if the intersection has no lights and no stop or give-way signs or line markings.

This means a driver travelling straight ahead must give way to any vehicles approaching from the right.

A driver turning left, but not from a slip lane, must give way to any vehicles approaching from the right and any pedestrian at or near the intersection on the road the driver is entering.

A driver turning left using a slip lane must give way to any vehicles approaching from the right or turning right at the intersection into the road the driver is entering, except vehicles making a u-turn, and must also give way to any pedestrian on the slip lane.

A driver turning right must give way to any vehicles on the right, oncoming vehicles going straight ahead or turning left (but not from a slip lane) and any pedestrian at or near the intersection on the road the driver is entering.

If you come across traffic lights that are not working properly, call VicRoads on 13 11 70 (24 hours a day) to report the problem. If you can, quote the intersection identification number, which is a number ID found on the pale green or grey box located at the side of the intersection (as shown in the image on the right).

Grey box with traffic light ID

Yellow lights

You must not proceed through a yellow traffic light if you are able to stop safely before entering the intersection.  Drivers approaching a yellow light, if safe to do so, must stop before the stop line, or where there isn’t one, as near to and before the nearest traffic light. If you can’t, then you must stop before the intersection. This means that more often than not, you should be braking at yellow lights rather than accelerating through them to beat the red light. Road safety cameras that act as speed and red-light cameras have been deployed at intersections with a high crash risk or a poor crash history to address this very practice.

Another uncertainty that can arise is what to do if you have already entered the intersection and the lights then change to yellow or red. Circumstances around this situation will vary widely, so the key factor to consider is whether you can proceed through the intersection safely.

If you have already entered the intersection, the Road Rules require you to leave the intersection as soon as you can safely do so. Note that because you have passed the stop line, a “Stop here on red signal” sign or the traffic light itself does not necessarily mean that you have already entered the intersection.

Roundabouts

Giving way at roundabouts

When entering a roundabout, a driver must give way to any vehicle in the roundabout and any tram that is entering or approaching the roundabout. 

In many cases, this will mean giving way to vehicles already in the roundabout on your right. However in some cases, such as smaller roundabouts, vehicles who have entered to the left or the opposite side of the roundabout may mean you cannot safely enter and have to give way as they are already in the roundabout.

At a small roundabout, where a vehicle is turning it may be only possible to have one vehicle in the roundabout. Larger roundabouts will be able to have multiple vehicles in them at any time.

When entering a roundabout, it is not compulsory to come to a complete stop, unless it is done to avoid a collision.

Once in the roundabout, a driver must give way to a tram, or a bus travelling along tram tracks that is in, entering or approaching the roundabout.

On multi-lane roundabouts, cyclists (and animal riders!) riding in the far left lane of the roundabout are required to give way to any vehicle leaving the roundabout. This means that riders who wish to turn right should position themselves towards the middle of the roundabout, if safe to do so for the speed and type of traffic.

Drivers are not required to give way to pedestrians when leaving a roundabout, unless there is a pedestrian crossing or zebra crossing, but common-sense should prevail.

Be aware that other rules apply, including passing trucks displaying the 'do not overtake turning vehicle' sign and giving way to trams.

For more information see the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules rules 109 to 119.

Indicating at roundabouts

Using indicators at roundabouts also seems to cause confusion, but it’s not that different to any other type of intersection.  Before entering the roundabout indicate as you normally would: left to turn left, right to turn right and no indicator if you are going straight ahead.

Remember to indicate long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians about where you plan to go.

If you are going to leave the roundabout more than halfway around, then you must indicate right.  Halfway around is defined as leaving on a road that is substantially straight ahead from the road you entered on. The difference to other intersections is in exiting.  Where practicable, drivers must give a left change of direction signal when leaving the roundabout. 

We often get comments that the rules for indicating when exiting a roundabout in NSW, QLD and SA are different to Victoria. While the Victorian road rules do differ from those interstate, in the case of exiting a roundabout they are similar, in that indicating is required if practicable. As the rule is similar, the difference appears to be in the adherence to and enforcement of the rule, rather than the rule itself.

For more information see the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules rules 109 to 119.

Overtaking in roundabouts

Overtaking is permitted in roundabouts, as long as it is safe to do so and line marking doesn’t otherwise prohibit it. Remember to indicate as you would normally do. The overtaking vehicle must pass at a sufficient distance to avoid a collision or obstructing the path of the vehicle being overtaken. 

For more information see the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules rules 109 to 119.