It began last week, as the weather truly began to clear up. We got a message from our photographer: he’d been driving in Northern Iceland and his car had left the road, struck a large rock and flipped.
While I have insisted from day one that our photographer’s driving could give even Chuck Yeager motion sickness, the fact is he hadn’t been in an accident in twenty years, and this one almost killed him.
In the next few days, as the weather continued to improve, we got more stories of accidents. Thursday an old lady was killed. Friday, on my way to work, Hvervisgata, a main street in downtown Reykjavík was closed because a driver had lost control and slammed into a light pole—an accident that seemed dependent on a far greater speed than one should be able to reach on a street heavily used by pedestrians with stoplights every second block.
That evening, I got a message from a friend: “Somebody crashed into my building.” Here's the photo he included:
Later that night, coming home from work, I was almost run off the road by a young man driving about 80 kilometres per hour in a ultra-compact Nissan through heavy traffic straight into a roundabout.
During the first two months of the year, through heavy winds, frozen rain and snow, there wasn’t one traffic fatality in Iceland.
In the last four days, there have been three fatalities, and many more accidents with victims that may add to the fatality list. (While it is in bad taste to guess on this, sources suggest the total may work up to five or six.)
Formula One racing started this weekend, and if I were looking for easy answers maybe I would blame racing, as they do in America on Memorial Day (during the Indianapolis 500). Or I could take the side of the many tourists and guide books that claim Iceland is full of the worst drivers this side of Pisa.
But to avoid accidents in such inclement weather says a lot about the competency of the drivers here. Yes, few seem to know about the intricacies of roundabouts, stoplights or even parking, but having studied it, I came to believe that the driving here was more charmingly clumsy than outright dangerous.
Then, with this week, things have changed.
We are left with gorgeous weather and the realization that for two months we were extremely lucky. And now that the luck has turned, one can’t help but feel vaguely like an accomplice.
Here we all were, laughing and driving along horribly, and suddenly a bunch of people have had to pay the price. It makes me think of the nature shows, when wildebeests run across a river only to have one or two randomly snapped up by crocodiles. BC [email protected]