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Iceland roundabout rule

Iceland Should Reverse Roundabout Rule

Icelanders should reverse the unique rule that grants the inner lane the right of way in roundabouts, according to traffic safety specialist Ólafur Kr. Guðmundsson. Iceland’s parliament is in the process of revising the country’s traffic laws, and Ólafur told Vísir he hopes it will see fit to adopt international traffic regulations which give the outer lane the right of way in roundabouts.

Unique rule contradicts “right of way”

When it comes to exiting roundabouts, driving schools in Iceland teach students that vehicles in the inner lane have the right of way and those in the outer lane must yield. The fact that in most other nations the opposite is true may not have been a problem in the past, but an increase in foreign drivers on Icelandic roads means this difference in regulation is leading to accidents.

Ólafur says he doesn’t know of any nations besides Iceland which grant the inner lane the right of way in a roundabout. “This is the opposite of what other nations do,” he says, adding that Iceland’s rule contradicts one of the fundamental traffic regulations, the so-called “right of way” rule, which in most situations compels drivers to yield to the vehicle to their right.

Cause of property damage

According to Ólafur, the rule discrepancy has led to many accidents in Iceland. He points out one example: the roundabout on Vesturlandsvegur between Reykjavík and Mosfellsbær has been the site of over 70 collisions in just five years, most occurring when drivers are exiting the roundabout. Giving the outer lane the right of way would not only diminish misunderstandings between local and foreign drivers, but also make it easier for Icelanders to drive abroad.

Self-driving software struggles

The forthcoming arrival of self-driving cars is also a reason to reconsider the contrary rule, Ólafur asserts. A self-driving Tesla which he tested in Iceland struggled with the local roundabouts, and it is unlikely such vehicles’ software will take the exceptional rule into account.

While some Icelanders may argue it is more logical to grant the inner lane the right of way, Ólafur doesn’t think they’ll manage to convince other nations to take up the rule. “I think it’s much simpler to teach 300,000 people a new rule rather than transform the whole world. I would start with these 300,000.”

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