Every time there is a collision in ‘the Circle,’ Village police officers have to explain the right-of-way rules to the involved motorists. Invariably, the at-fault driver (in this scenario, the exiting car is at fault) was unaware of the rules, and they often want to argue about them. Just in case you might be a bit fuzzy on the rules, I thought it best to briefly explain them.
1. A vehicle in the Circle has the right-of-way over any vehicle seeking to enter the Circle.
2. There is no mandatory exit lane in Chevy Chase Circle. Simply put, a driver may continue around the Circle without exiting.
3. A vehicle that continues around the Circle within its own lane has the right-of-way over all other vehicles. And that means that vehicles continuing around the Circle within their lane of travel have the right-of-way over exiting vehicles.
4. If a motorist within the Circle wants to change lanes/rings, they must yield the right-of-way to other vehicles, and they may change lanes only when it is safe to do so. It’s just like changing lanes on any roadway.
5. With the exception of exits onto Connecticut Avenue, vehicles exiting the Circle must exit from the outer-most lane.
6. Vehicles exiting the Circle onto Connecticut Avenue (northbound or southbound) may exit from any lane, however, vehicles exiting from the inner-most or middle lanes must grant the right-of-way to all other vehicles. Remember, in order for a car to exit the Circle from either of the 2 inner lanes, it must first change lanes and cross the outer ring(s). A car changing lanes does NOT have the right-of-way over other vehicles that are continuing around the Circle (see rule #3 above).
The short, painted guidelines that exit the Circle do not grant the right-of-way to a car exiting from either of the two inner lanes. Those lines are there because often cars in all three Circle lanes simultaneously exit abreast of one another (a permissible move) onto Connecticut Avenue, and the lines help keep them from sideswiping one another.
Please keep in mind, though, that if a car in the outer lane wants to go past Connecticut Avenue while there are inner-lane cars that want to exit, the outer-lane car has the legal right of way (again, see rule #3, above). The cars that want to exit might have to make another trip around the Circle in order to exit safely. Please be careful.
John M. Fitzgerald
Chief, Chevy Chase Village Police Department