Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Driving in Iceland: 5 traffic warning signs and how to react to them

Spring is here and summer visitors will start flocking to Iceland soon. Therefore I thought I would post some travel advice for visitors to Iceland who are planning to drive around the country. This is the first. The rest will come at irregular intervals throughout the summer, as I think of subjects and get the photos I need to illustrate them. You can, if you wish, post suggestions for future posts in the comments.

Sheep crossing. They are a special danger in the spring when they have just been released from their winter confinement but have not yet been taken into the highland pastures, and in the autumn when they have been brought down again but not yet housed for the winter, but you will see the occasional naughty ones throughout the summer. No fence seems capable of holding an Icelandic sheep that thinks the grass looks greener on the other side. They are unpredictable and if you see them on both sides of the road, slow down and use the horn. If they take no notice of you, passing is probably safe, but you may just see a lamb sprint across the road to join its mother.
Location: Holtavörðuheiði.

Horses and riders crossing. A risk at any time of the year, but especially during the warmer months.
There aren't always riders. Unpredictable with or without riders. Slow down but do not use the horn, as they spook easily. Stop for herds and wait for them to clear the road, or inch through them very slowly.
Location: Hvalfjörður (I think).

Cows crossing. A risk during the warmer months.
Usually found in herds, sometimes walking in a line, nose to tail, and will not stop for anything.
Stop and let them pass.
Location: Skagi, northern Iceland.

Enough domestic animals. Let's see some wildlife:

Reindeer crossing. Seen in the eastern part of the country at any time of the year.
May come singly, in pairs or in small herds. Unpredictable.
Follow advice for horses.

Location: East Fjords.

Ducks and geese crossing. Mostly seen in towns near duck ponds, but also in occasional locations in the countryside where ducks and geese nest.
Will generally ignore you completely and do their own thing. Follow advice for cows.
Location: Downtown Reykjavík.

The sign you will not see, but should be there: 

 Dogs that chase cars. The best way to deal with them is to slow down and use the horn, or come to a gradual stop, open a window and shout at them. This will hopefully scare them from doing it again. On no account should you brake suddenly, as this can cause the tyre biters of the tribe to miscalculate their speed and get run over.

Ignore these warning signs at your own risk.

In a collision between a cow or a reindeer and a car neither can win. 

If you hit any livestock you may be liable to pay damages to the farmer. 

Hit a duck or a dog and you will feel like a murderer. 

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