Driving in Iceland is a diverse undertaking, quite unlike those you will experience in most other countries. On our roads, even the most experienced drivers are sure to frequently find themselves in situations that test their zone of comfort. It is therefore extremely important that foreigners and locals alike, take extra care when driving in Iceland. Below you will find a few helpful tips to aid you on your way.
Loose gravel has caused numerous unnecessary accidents. It is common for these accidents to occur where a paved road suddenly changes to gravel. The sudden change in underlayer is known to catch drivers off guard, causing some to panic, hit the break too hard and lose control of their vehicle. Be on the lookout for this sign, indicating a paved road changing to gravel. You should also note that gravel roads are often quite narrow. Therefore, it is necessary to show caution when approaching a vehicle from the opposite direction. When encountering an approaching vehicle, one should slow down considerably and move as far to the right side of the road as possible, allowing both parties to pass without unnecessary endangerment.
F roads should not be driven unless you are having a 4×4. These roads are not just gravel roads, these are mountain roads where you might need to cross rivers without bridges. Before going these roads make sure to read about crossing rivers and estimating the depth, there are times that some of these rivers can’t be crossed at all so you need to know what you are doing.
Sheep on the road
When driving in Iceland you will by all probability come across sheep or other livestock on or beside the road. This can cause great danger because if an ewe is on one side of the road, and her lambs on the other, the lambs––alarmed by the roaring approach of your vehicle––are likely to panic and run to their mother’s side. In such a situation you will, therefore, be wise to slow down and honk your horn. This will alarm the lambs and cause them to run to their mother’s side at your command, rather than suddenly shoot onto the road to your surprise.
Single lane bridges
The Icelandic Ring Road is home to many single lane bridges which are extremely hazardous to those unfamiliar with the basic measures drivers must take when encountering an approaching vehicle. The rule is that the vehicle which is closer to the bridge has the right-of-way. Nonetheless, it is advisable to always slow down considerably before crossing––even to reach a full stop––and carefully assess the situation in order to determine the intentions of the approaching driver.
Driving in winter time
Iceland can be breathtakingly beautiful in winter time, but it can be equally dangerous. Winter driving conditions are often extremely difficult, especially for drivers that are not accustomed to an arctic climate. When driving on snowy and slippery roads, locals and foreigners alike need to proceed with extreme caution. And remember that a large portion of the Icelandic road system is not serviced during winter time, leaving some roads closed or impassable. Before heading out, check the Road and Coastal Administration’s website, www.road.is, where you will find an interactive map with road conditions and weather information. If in doubt call 1777.
For more information on driving in Iceland, please see the following links. Take care out there.
On road.is is the icelandic road and coastal administration.
You may find some useful information about travel in Iceland on the safetravel.is website.
Drive.is has released a helpful video about driving in Iceland.
And remember, Iceland’s Emergency Number is 112. This number is identical to 911 in USA and 999 in UK.