“Shocking” Rise in Fatal Car Accidents

driving in reykjavík

In the mere 17 days that have passed in 2024 so far, five people have died in traffic accidents. This rate of fatal accident has not been seen since recording began some 50 years ago, Vísir reports.

Two died in an accident on Grindavíkurvegur, two near Skaftafell and one in Hvalfjörður. Þórhildur Elínardóttir, communications director of the Icelandic Transport Authority, told Vísir that the number of traffic deaths this year is “shocking” and that she hadn’t seen such trends in recent years. “This is among the worst we’ve seen,” said Þórhildur. “We hope this isn’t a taste of what’s to come.”

New traffic risks

Eight people died in traffic in Iceland last year in total and nine in 2022. The numbers had been similar in the years before. Five deaths in only 17 days is the deadliest start of the year, surpassing 1977, the worst year on record. 37 people died in traffic that year.

The Icelandic Transport Authority keeps track of accident statistics and spearheads prevention methods. Þórhildur said that authorities have set the goal of decreasing serious injuries and deaths in traffic by 5 percent year on year and for Iceland to be among the five European nations with the fewest traffic deaths per capita.

Þórhildur said that it’s important to spread awareness about road safety. “We need to face the various challenges that have come up through the years,” she said. “In the last ten years, they have included phone use while driving, increase in tourism, electric scooters, and more.”

Pedestrian Killed in Traffic Accident

fatal accident Iceland

A pedestrian was killed in a traffic collision in Höfðabakki on the east side of Reykjavík on Friday evening, Vísir reports. The cause of the accident is currently being investigated.

See Also: Fatality in Bus and Scooter Collision

The collision was reported around 12:30 AM on Saturday morning and occurred not far from the Ábæjarsafn open air museum.

The victim was a man in his forties. He was transported to the hospital after being hit by the car but died later that morning.

Flashing Red Light to Warn of Dangerous Waves at Reynisfjara

A flashing red light will be installed at Reynisfjara beach in South Iceland to warn visitors of dangerous waves. RÚV reports that the light will be installed within three weeks. Powerful sneaker waves at the beach have been the cause of several fatal accidents, despite signs that warn visitors to keep their distance from the water.

The light will flash yellow or red based on the conditions at the beach. The colour code is based on a wave forecasting system that the Road and Coastal Administration began developing five years ago thanks to a grant from the Tourism Site Protection Fund.

“With [the forecasting system] we can predict with some degree of certainty how the waves will be,” explained Fannar Gíslason, who manages the Road and Coastal Administration’s harbour division. “The risk has been colour-coded green, yellow, and red depending on how much danger is posed by the waves at Reynisfjara.”

The light will be installed by the parking lot and walking path by Reynisfjara and will never be lit green. “There will be a flashing yellow warning light and it will be red when conditions are poor. We’ll have it like that at first, in any case. We’ll see how that goes, whether people notice it.”

In order to determine which wave heights are dangerous to the beach’s visitors, wave data was cross-referenced with police diaries and incident records. According to Fannar, the current forecasting system is in sync with that data.

A camera system will also be set up by the beach to allow authorities to observe the waves visually and calibrate those observations into the forecast.

Fatal Collision Between Electric Scooter and Moped

A fatal accident occurred at the intersection of Kringlumýrarbraut and Sæbraut streets in Reykjavík yesterday morning when an electric scooter and a moped collided. The electric scooter operator died in the accident while the moped driver is in hospital with serious injuries. This is the first fatal accident involving an electric scooter in Iceland.

Both of the victims of the accident were wearing helmets when the collision occurred. One was in their 50s while the other was in their 40s. Detective superintendent Guðbrandur Sigurðsson told RÚV it has not been confirmed whether the vehicles were on a cycling path or sidewalk when they collided. It has also not been confirmed at which what speed the vehicles were operating when they collided.

Mopeds can reach speeds of up to 45km per hour. At that speed, however, they are required to use the road, and not sidewalks or cycling paths. “Electric scooters should have a limiter at 25km per hour and are not permitted to go faster, but we have stories and examples and police reports that electric scooters, according to the manufacturers, can reach speeds of up to 80km per hour when the limiter is removed,” Guðbrandur explained, adding that operating a scooter at speeds above 25km per hour is “incredibly dangerous.”

Electric scooters have grown in popularity over the past year or two in Iceland, with several scooter rideshare apps springing up in Reykjavík recently. While Guðbrandur says accidents and injuries involving electric scooters have previously been reported, this is the first fatal accident involving an electric scooter in Iceland.

Fatal Accident in East Iceland

fatal accident Iceland

An 18-year-old French woman had died after falling down a steep slope in East Iceland, where she was hiking with a group. Conditions at the scene were difficult, and Police in East Iceland wrote it was “clear that rescue operators accomplished a great feat” in their work. Police in the region are investigating the incident.

The police were notified of the accident, which occurred in southern Stöðvarfjörður, around 5:00 PM yesterday. Police, rescue crews, and paramedics were called to the scene, as well as a Coast Guard helicopter.

No Fatal Accidents for Fishermen Fourth Year Running

Hilmar Snorrason - Iceland Maritime Safety and Survival Training Centre

No fishermen died in an accident at work in the year 2020. For the past ten years, fatal accidents at sea average at less than one per year. Four sailors died in 2012 but since 2017, there hasn’t been a fatal accident. This is the fourth year in a row where no fatal accidents occur for fishermen and Hilmar Snorrason, director of the Maritime Safety and Survival Training Centre, is happy with the results.

Read more on the Maritime Safety and Survival Training Centre

What’s vital for this incredible success is the increased safety consciousness of fishermen, the fishing companies’ increased emphasis on security, and last but not least, the operation of the Maritime Safety and Survival Training Centre. Education and training, as well as better weather forecasts, safer ships and rescue equipment, all work together to make fishermen safer at work, according to Hilmar. Sailors had fewer non-fatal accidents last year as well, with 153 reported accidents to the Icelandic Health Insurance in 2020. In 2019 the number was 172 and 204 in 2018. These numbers encompass both minor wounds and serious accidents.

While most of the numbers of accidents went down, there was a noticeable increase in boats and ships being towed to harbour, with 80 such events in 2020, compared to 18 the year before. Hilmar states that there’s no clear reason for the increase, but one possible explanation is that people are merely reporting such incidents more efficiently. There’s nothing to indicate the global pandemic has had any noticeable effect on sailor safety in the past year.

Hilmar is pleased with the results of the Maritime Safety and Survival Training Centre’s work to increase safety at sea and the reduction of fatal accidents but warns that it doesn’t mean that people can start to relax now. “Maritime safety is not a temporary effort – it requires constant work and vigilance. While we celebrate our victories, we can’t forget how we got here.” In his opinion, the most important step fishermen and fishing companies can take is to perform regular risk assessments and minimise the risk of accidents before they occur.  He dreams that one day, we’ll have a year with no accidents at sea. “I think it’s possible. Just look at the success sailors have had so far.”

Deadly Accident on Reykjanesbraut

fatal accident Iceland

A man in his forties was killed last night in a collision between a passenger vehicle and a snow ploughing vehicle on Reykjanesbraut (Route 41) in Southwest Iceland, RÚV reports. Police were notified of the accident at 9.22pm. The vehicles were driving in opposite directions when they collided by the Straumsvík aluminium smelter just outside of Hafnarfjörður.

The man who was killed in the crash was driving the passenger vehicle. Authorities have not yet released his name. The Capital Area Police and the Icelandic Transport Authority are investigating the accident. Heavy snow and strong winds made for poor visibility in Southwest Iceland yesterday. A section of Route 41 was closed due to the weather.

Boy’s Body Found in River

fatal accident Iceland

The body of 16-year-old Leifur Magnús Grétarsson Thisland, who fell into a river in North Iceland has been found, RÚV reports. had been assisting a farmer in Eyjafjörður on Wednesday night with clearing slush from a home power station when he fell into the river and was carried away. Extreme weather has caused extended power outages in North Iceland over the past week.

Police were informed around 10.00pm on Wednesday night about the accident. Search and rescue teams were dispatched to the scene right away. Over 40 volunteers, including a team specialised in water rescue, helped with the search. Conditions were extremely difficult, with freezing temperatures, strong winds, and heavy snowfall complicating the operation.

The boy’s body was found around noon yesterday and was transported to Akureyri by helicopter later that afternoon. Chief Inspector of Northeast Iceland Police Hermann Karlsson stated that an investigation into the incident will take place, as per standard procedure.

Leifur was born in Norway in 2003 and lived in the Westman Islands.

Driver Found Guilty in Fatal Bus Crash

Judge's gavel

The driver of a tour bus that rolled over in an accident in December 2017 and lead to the death of two people has received a six-month suspended prison sentence, RÚV reports. He will also lose his driver’s license for two years and responsible for paying both court and legal expenses in excess of ISK 4.1 million [$32,868; €28,930]. The ruling was issued on Friday by the South Iceland District Court.

The accident occurred in South Iceland, just west of the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. The bus rolled over when the driver, who was traveling 10 – 12 km/hr over the posted speed limit, tried to edge the bus to the left when a passenger vehicle unexpectedly appeared on its right side. Ice on the roadway caused the bus to crash into the car, however, which had also slipped to the left.

There were 46 passengers on the bus when it overturned, all of whom were Chinese tourists. One of the passengers died at the scene of the accident, another two weeks later. Two additional passengers were seriously injured.

Witnesses testified that the bus was not in good repair on the day of the accident and should not have been driven. According to tachograph data collected from the bus in the minutes before the crash, it was traveling between 100 – 102 km/hr [62 – 63 mi/hr], although the posted speed limit on rural roads is 90 km/hr [56 mi/hr]. The driver testified that prior to setting off on the trip, he’d noticed that the brakes were not working equally well on all the vehicle’s wheels and also that the winter studs on the tires were fairly worn down.

The official report on the bus’s condition at the time of the accident also found that the tire studs were in poor condition. As such, they were of no use when the bus began slipping on the icy road at the time of the accident. Investigators also found that there was no brake on the left front wheel.

The driver’s negligence in failing to properly examine and conduct maintenance on the bus before setting out and also in driving over the speed limit in icy conditions was then, the court found, directly responsible for the deaths of two people and the serious injury of two more.

Male Drivers More Likely to Cause Serious Traffic Accidents

traffic accident Iceland

Men are significantly more likely to engage in risky behaviour while driving and have been at fault in 14 of 15 serious traffic accidents that took place in Iceland last year. The data comes from the Icelandic Transport Authority’s annual accident report, which also shows a record high number of tourist deaths in driving-related accidents in 2018. RÚV reported first.

Dramatic gender divide in 2018 accidents

According to Gunnar Geir Gunnarsson, the Transport Authority’s Head of Safety and Promotion division, the gender divide in traffic accidents is not usually so dramatic. As a rule, men make up two-thirds of drivers, and there’s usually a similar proportion of men involved in minor traffic accidents and incidents.

“But when we examine serious accidents, then we can see that men are the drivers in the vast majority of them,” explained Gunnar. “Generally, there’s either risky behavior or some kind of recklessness that they haven’t thought all the way through. Especially with fatal accidents, there is often drunk driving, speeding. Drug use in some instances,” he concluded.

Young victims, private vehicles

There were 15 fatal traffic accidents in Iceland in 2018, which led to 18 total deaths. Of these, 12 victims were men and six were women or girls. Eleven of the victims were 36 years old or younger. Nine of the victims were Icelanders, six were foreign tourists, and three were foreign nationals living in Iceland. One fatality was related to a drunk driving incident. Twelve of the victims were driving in passenger cars, four in delivery trucks, one on a tour bus, and one on an ATV.

Young drivers are often involved in traffic accidents, mostly due to their inexperience, Gunnar explained. There has been the most dramatic increase in traffic accidents among this demographic of late. Fatal traffic accidents have also been on the rise among tourists, which Gunnar credits, at least in part, to unfamiliar driving conditions in Iceland.

“…Six people died in traffic incidents last year—there have never been more in a single year. But the trouble they get into is more about a lack of knowledge about Icelandic conditions. It’s not many of them who are under the influence of alcohol, rather that they drive too fast on icy or gravel roads—something like that.”

Fewer accidents in 2019

While driving-related deaths spiked in 2018, the first three months of 2019 showed no fatal traffic accidents at all in the country. Experts say better driver education and higher rates of seatbelt use are among the factors working together to reduce accident mortality in Iceland.