In total, 138 people, both domestic and foreign, have died while traveling in Iceland in the past decade, 12 per year on average. Most deaths are traffic-related; however, the number of fatal traffic accidents has decreased considerably in past years.
Jónas Gudmundsson, project manager of accident prevention at the search and rescue association ICE-SAR, told Fréttabladid that even though fatal accidents have decreased proportionally given the increase of tourists in the past years, there are still too many deaths.
After traffic accidents, most fatal accidents occur during outdoor recreation and number 33, or three per year on average.
Gudmundsson said it is important to increase prevention of weather and nature-related accidents, as more than 80 percent of foreign tourists in Iceland come to see nature’s attractions.
“So many of these accidents are tragically unnecessary,” Gudmundsson commented, referring to a young Swedish tourist who died from exposure on Sólheimajökull glacier last weekend.
“Whether it was his to know or ours to educate, people shouldn’t hike an Icelandic icefall unless they’re wearing climbing irons. And preferably only with tour operators,” Gudmundsson stated.
He calls for further regulations and legislations and more information to prevent accidents and fatalities among travelers in Iceland.
Erna Hauksdóttir, managing director of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association (SAF), told Morgunbladid that it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach tourists because so many of them travel independently.
“When people travel on their own one has to trust that they inform themselves. Our main concern is how we can get the necessary information to everyone, regardless of how they arrive in the country,” she said.
“The problem is that some tourists neither listen nor take advice and there appears to be too many like this and they are very difficult to reach. We are constantly trying to figure out how we can raise awareness of how dangerous Iceland can be,” Hauksdóttir added.
One source of information on accident prevention is safetravel.is, which opened one and a half years ago.
Gudmundsson said the website has increased the flow of information to travelers considerably, many of whom registered their itineraries there last summer and printed out information.
“The website is still young and tourists number several hundred thousand so we are only reaching a fraction of them. It needs a few more years to gain a proper foothold,” he concluded.
Click here to read about the accident on Sólheimajökull.