On January 1, new traffic laws which were passed by Alþingi in June take effect. The laws include significant changes to existing traffic laws, including permitting authorities to ban or limit traffic to reduce pollution, and raising speed limits to 110km/h (68m/h) where opposing lanes are separated and conditions allow. Vísir reported first.
Roundabout rule confirmed
The new traffic legislation has confirmed the Icelandic convention when driving in roundabouts with two lanes: that the driver in the outer lane must give priority to drivers in the inner lane when they are exiting the roundabout. This rule contradicts the convention in most other countries, where the driver in the outer lane has the right of way.
A driver entering a roundabout must use the outer lane if he intends to take the first exit. It is also illegal to switch lanes by the roundabout or within it.
Blood alcohol limit lowered
The new legislation also lowers the maximum blood alcohol level permitted for drivers from 0.05% to 0.02%. Thus, a driver will not be considered safely able to control his vehicle if his blood alcohol level is above 0.02%. However, the penalty limit will remain at 0.05%, meaning drivers will not be penalised unless their blood alcohol level is measured above 0.05%.
Some of the changes are simply setting existing regulations firmly into law: for example, banning driving through red lights. The ban exists currently in traffic regulations but is not written into law. The new legislation also states that mandatory driving lights must be always switched on, regardless of circumstances. A ban on the use of smartphones and similar devices while driving has been clarified, for both motor vehicle operators and cyclists.
Cyclists given space
As of next month, cyclists will be permitted to take up the entire lane where the speed limit is 30km/h. Drivers will also be required by law to give cyclists the right of way when turning across a bicycle lane and have a berth of at least 1.5m (4.9ft) when passing cyclists. Cyclists are permitted to bike across pedestrian crossings, but only at walking speed.
No throwing trash
The new laws also institute a complete ban on throwing garbage from vehicles or anything else that contaminates the road or environment. The previous ban on similar actions only applied to materials that could pose a danger or inconvenience to other travellers.