Police in Iceland have warned visitors to beware of the country’s icy roads in the winter.
They are increasingly worried about visitors scanning the sky for the Northern Lights and not looking at the road, which may be icy, twisty or narrow – or all three conditions at once.
It comes after an SUV carrying seven British tourists plunged off a one-lane bridge on Road No. 1 in southern Iceland, killing three people and critically injuring the others.
It comes after an SUV carrying seven British tourists plunged off a one-lane bridge on Road No. 1 in southern Iceland, killing three people and critically injuring the others
Mother Rajshree Laturia with her 11-month old daughter, Shreeprabha Laturia, who died after the Land Cruiser they were travelling in crashed off a bridge
The crash on December 27 killed Rajshree Laturia, her baby daughter Shureeprahba and sister-in-law Khushboo.
Rajshree’s husband Shreeraj, 39, who was said to be driving, and his brother Supreme, 37, were also badly injured in the crash along with their two other children.
In the winter, tourists from warm countries – who may never have driven in snow and ice – have been more likely to get into accidents, according to the Icelandic Transport Authority.
Jeremy Tan, a financier from Singapore who was about driving his rental car half way around Iceland, said: ”Driving on Icelandic winter roads it is tough. Definitely.’
‘Dark roads and strong winds are something that I am not used to.’
Of the 18 people who died in traffic crashes in Iceland in 2018, half of them were foreigners, continuing a trend that started the year before, when more foreigners than residents died for the first time on this volcanic island in the North Atlantic.
Shreeraj Laturia, 39 (right) has told police that he cannot remember anything about the crash which killed wife Rajshree (left), daughter Shureeprahba (centre) and sister-in-law Kushboo
Sisters-in-law Rajshree Laturia (left) and Khushboo Laturia (right) who died after crash at the Súla bridge barrier in Núpsvötn, Iceland on December 27
A further four people were critically injured in the accident, in Núpsvötn, south of Vatnajökull glacier
Police say they have encountered sleep-deprived drivers cruising into the night, as well as vehicles driving without lights on to prevent light pollution.
Police say some accidents even happen on main roads, when tourists hit the brakes quickly because of a sudden Northern Lights sighting and then get hit from behind.
Superintendent Johannes Sigfusson of the Akureyri Police Department, the largest in the northern region, said: ‘The weather in Iceland changes every five minutes, so to speak, and road conditions change accordingly.’
‘In a matter of minutes, a dry road can turn icy and slippery. The risk is compounded in the middle of the night, when an inexperienced driver is deprived of sleep and with one eye on the sky.’
It doesn’t help that, in Icelandic winters, the sun in Akureyri can rise as late as 11:39 a.m. and set as early as 2:43 p.m., meaning that tourists are spending most of their day driving in the dark.
The accident took place at Skeidararsandur, a vast sand plain in southern Iceland, at around 9.30am (file picture shows the bridge where it is understood the crash happened)
Authorities note that the capital, Reykjavik, Akureyri and other areas have tourism companies that offer nightly Northern Lights bus tours near-daily in the winter so tourists can leave the driving to professionals.
Iceland’s road infrastructure also lags behind its boom in international tourism.
The national Road No. 1, which runs for 830 miles as it connects coastal towns and villages on this volcanic island of 350,000 people, still has narrow lanes and many one-lane bridges.
Police say some accidents even happen on main roads, when tourists hit the brakes quickly because of a sudden Northern Lights sighting and then get hit from behind [File photo]