After Friday’s cabinet meeting, the Minister of Health’s car drove along the sidewalk and turned on a red light…all in plain sight of television cameras.
Minister for Heath, Kristján Þór Júlíusson ran from the Prime Ministry to his waiting car outside because it was raining heavily. Once in the front passenger seat, the driver took off; pulling out right onto the sidewalk instead of left onto the street. When he reached the traffic light between Lækjargata and Hverfisgata, he turned right onto the street and off of the sidewalk, despite the traffic light being red. The whole incident was caught on Stöð 2 television cameras and can be seen here.
Traffic on Lækjargata was not especially heavy at the time and there are no clear or obvious reasons for the driver to have made the decision to break the law in this way. When Kristján reached his car, there were six parked cars outside waiting for their ministers. There was also one unrelated white car waiting at the red traffic light. None of these were visibly in the way or impeding the health minister’s car.
Even if the car had been impeded, it is still illegal to drive along a footpath—a crime punishable with a ISK 5,000 (EUR 34/USD 38) fine—assuming the crime does not endanger anybody else. According to a police traffic officer, there is a ISK 15,000 fine for endangering other people; and what counts as endangering is often a matter of opinion.
The same officer said he is not sure whether the minister’s driver can be charged for running the red traffic light, because he was not on the road and passed the light to the right-hand-side. “It’s a question of whether that can be interpreted as driving through a red light. That is a question our lawyers will look into,” the officer says. The fine for that would be another ISK 15,000 and points on the driver’s license.
“No,” is the definitive answer when the officer is asked whether any different rules apply to ministerial cars and their drivers. “Ministerial cars must follow the traffic laws which are in place. But in official convoy, if ministers are accompanied by police, then other rules apply. Then they are under police management.”
No comment has so far come from the Ministry of Health.