Nothing seems to confuse drivers more than the roundabout intersection.  Granted, roundabouts are a relatively recent addition to the highway arsenal in our area.  Up until the last five to ten years or so, you didn't see many of them in Minnesota or Wisconsin.  And - you definitely didn't see many here in the Northland.

In the last few years, both the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation have started using them with a few showing up in the Twin Ports, Cloquet, and even the Iron Range.  If you follow the long range plans for either of these state agencies, you'll also recognize that MNDOT and WISDOT plan on installing more of them in the years to come.  In other words, they're not going away - get used to them.

Perhaps it's the (still) novel concept that roundabouts bring to the table that causes such confusion for drivers.  While they're designed to streamline the flow of traffic, you often see that confusion present itself in a variety of ways; hesitancy might be the worst of the problems as it can lead to serious accidents. (i.e. who's supposed to go, when?)

One issue that often comes up in regards to roundabouts concerns traffic signals:  Do you need to signal your way into a roundabout and should you signal your eventual turn out of it?

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The answer to that question is it depends in which state you're driving in.  Legally, the use of traffic signals in relation to a roundabout differs between Minnesota and Wisconsin - and, with the Twin Ports being a border community, that can lead to some confusion.

Here's what the respective departments of transportation for each state have to say about navigating a roundabout - taken from their websites:

  • Minnesota: Drivers need to slow down on the approach, get into the appropriate lane, and then yield to any pedestrians that might be in a crosswalk (if there is one). An approaching vehicle is supposed to - by law - yield to any vehicle that is already inside of the roundabout.  You should merge into the traffic flow when you deem it safe to do so.  Large trucks should be given the right of way - as they are allowed to (and mgmt. need to) straddle multiple lanes while inside of the roundabout.  Don't stop once inside the roundabout.  And, continue on until you reach your exit.
  • Wisconsin:  Drivers are urged to slow down. Watch for and obey traffic signs.  You're supposed to move into the correct lane you want to travel in as you approach the roundabout.  Yield to pedestrians.  Yield to all lanes of traffic.  Keep speeds low and stay in the lane of the roundabout you entered in.  Exit carefully. "Use your right turn signal, in front of the splitter island just prior to your exit, to indicate your intention to exit."

It's worth noting that while Wisconsin explicitly makes mention of turn signals, there is no such verbiage in in the instruction on the Minnesota Department of Transportation website. In other words, Wisconsin instructs their drivers to use a turn signal in relation to a roundabout while Minnesota does not.

So there's your official answer - direct from the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.  Turn signals are called for in Wisconsin but not in Minnesota.  However, nothing would prevent a driver from using a turn signal while in a roundabout in Minnesota; who knows, going "above and beyond" what's called for might even go a long way towards keeping you and the drivers around you safer.

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