Several drivers ran into trouble yesterday in East and Northeast Iceland due to snow and icy roads. Traffic was slow and many drivers of rental cars ran into problems since their cars were equipped with summer tyres that couldn’t handle the difficult driving conditions.
Yesterday, travelling conditions were getting worse and roads through Víkurskarð pass and Öxi were closed. Roads in Northeast Iceland were icy and it snowed in several parts of the area. Search-and-Rescue teams Vopni and Jökull in East Iceland aided tourists yesterday when they couldn’t get any farther on an icy road, mbl.is reports. Their rental car was equipped with summer tyres.
Ill-prepared cars also stopped traffic on route 1 by Vopnafjörður yesterday evening. Some drivers had difficulty getting their cars up a hill where traffic stopped. According to Vilhjálmur Vernharðsson, most of the drivers who had trouble were driving cars equipped with summer tyres. He is a service agent for The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration and spent hours yesterday digging out cars that were stuck, moving them and towing other cars that were blocking traffic.
Martin Norman, a traveller who drove through Möðrudalsöræfi between Egilstaðir and Mývatn yesterday told RÚV that traffic only went 20-30 km per hour and claims to have passed at least six cars that were off the road. He criticised car rentals for renting out cars on summer tyres. He contacted the car rental he had rented a car from who told him that the problem was the law that states that cars can’t be equipped with winter tyres until November 1, under penalty of fines.
Gold Car told RÚV that police had been fining drivers in Reykjavík for driving cars on winter tyres. It wasn’t until late yesterday that the police in the capital area issued a statement that they would not be fining drivers in the capital area due to icy roads in other areas of the country. As soon as the statement was made, the car rental started changing the tyres on their cars. Customers who contact them are directed to contact the nearest garage to have their tyres changed.
According to Sævar Sævarsson, COO of Blue Car Rental, which runs Gold Car, car rentals usually run into problems around this time of year, torn between following the law and ensuring the safety of drivers. “This weather is unseasonably early but this discussion usually takes place in October and again in April when it’s time to change the tyres again. ”