Going in Circles: South Carolina vs New Jersey

Traffic circle instructionsHere in South Carolina, they are plentiful. I’m talking about traffic circles, my friends. Approaching the one in Bluffton for the first time, I was amazed by the number of instructional signs that led up to the traffic circle itself: The signs started at least a half-mile away. I thought it was an anomaly until I saw the traffic circles (uh, roundabouts) on Hilton Head Island. That’s when I realized that South Carolina loves its traffic circles. And it wants to make sure everyone knows how to use them. It even gives instructions in one of the local tourist booklets (see above).

traffic circle sign

First you see the sign that warns you: circle ahead; it shows how many roads intersect the upcoming circle. Then you see a sign that shows which lane you need to be in, depending on which road you want to exit onto:  inside lane to exit the circle half or three-quarters of the way around and outside lane to exit one-quarter of the way around. And if you still don’t get it, take a look at the white arrows painted on the roadway; they repeat the lane instructions. By the time I approached the Bluffton circle for the first time I was laughing out loud at all the instructions.

New Jersey, my home state, is the birthplace of the U.S. traffic circle. I’m used to driving around them; I have a traffic circle mere miles from my home that I maneuver through regularly. That said, the Jersey powers that be phased out most traffic circles when they realized  Jersey’s high-volume, high-speed traffic and “me-first” drivers made said circles deadly. South Carolina must think its drivers are slower, more cautious and careful drivers since it has circles all over the area, at least where I’m staying. Okay, I thought, maybe because people here drive slower (as in waaay slower) than we do in New Jersey, they have plenty of time to read the signs, absorb their meanings and react accordingly.

Yield signSo back to Bluffton and the circle: I lined up on the inside lane since I wanted to exit at the third road. I drove around the circle: past the first exit, past the second exit. Then I signalled right to exit at the third road. A vehicle with South Carolina plates drove into the circle from the second exit — in the outside lane, which should have meant he was getting off where I was getting off — and blocked my exit as he illegally continued around the circle and exited on the far side.

Go figure. I felt like I was back home in New Jersey. Just with slower drivers.

Do you have traffic circles in your state? Do the locals follow the rules when using them?

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