The number of foreign tourists injured in traffic in Iceland last year was 223, according to new figures from the Icelandic Transport Authority, Vísir reports. In 2014, that number was 123, but in 2015, it had reached 213. Of the 223 injured last year, two died. Those 223 represent 15.7 percent of the total number of people injured in traffic accidents that year. Proportionally, the increase in the number of foreign tourists injured in traffic in 2015 by far exceeded the proportional increase in the total number of foreign tourists in Iceland that year. In 2016, on the other hand, that proportional increase was less than the proportional increase in tourist numbers.
Gunnar Geir Gunnarsson, division manager at the Icelandic Transport Authority, couldn’t explain the reason for that, but noted that the number of accidents increased greatly during the winter of 2015. Driving conditions in the winter, he stated, are much tougher than in the summer.
When the reasons for accidents are analyzed, one can see that 73 percent of foreign tourists who have accidents drive off the road or experience a rollover. Aside from the foreign tourists, others who are injured in traffic only drive off the road or have a rollover in 23 percent of cases.
“The reason for that,” Gunnar explained, “is that foreign tourists drive almost solely in the countryside, while Icelanders drive almost solely in urban areas. Landing off the road and rollovers are typical countryside accidents.” Ninety-five percent of accidents involving foreign tourists last year occurred in the countryside, resulting in 11 out of the 223 injuries.
Gunnar noted that the study brings to light various factors that need improvement to increase traffic safety. Guard rails, for example, need to be installed more widely. “That, of course, is one of the things that must be fixed, and also, the surroundings of the roads must be such that landing off the road doesn’t involve being sentenced to death, as is the case in some places,” Gunnar stated.
Reykjavík City is looking into the possibility of charging a fee for the use of studded tires. Gunnar admitted that issue is complicated. He believes studded tires are important when driving in the countryside, but points out that in the city, it’s a different story. Those two issues must not be treated as one, he emphasized.