Driving in Iceland

Gravel roads, blind hills & blind curves

A common place for accidents to occur on rural roads is where a paved road suddenly changes to gravel.  The main reason is that drivers do not reduce speed before the changeover to gravel, and consequently lose control.  Loose gravel on road shoulders has also caused a great number of accidents.

When driving on gravel roads, which are often quite narrow, it is important to show caution when approaching another car coming from the opposite direction by moving as far to the right as is safely possible.

Blind hills, where lanes are not separate, can be very dangerous, and should be approached with caution.  There are also many blind curves in Iceland that test a driver’s skill.

Single-lane bridges

There are many single-lane bridges on the Ring Road.  The actual rule is that the car closer to the bridge has the right-of-way.  However, it is wise to stop and assess the situation, i.e. attempt to see what the other driver plans to do.  This sign indicates that a single-lane bridge is ahead.
In Iceland, you can expect livestock to be on or alongside the road.  It is usually sheep, but sometimes horses and even cows can be in your path.  This is common all over the country, and can be very dangerous.

Sometimes a sheep is on one side of the road and her lambs on the other side.  Under these conditions, which are common, it is a good rule to expect the lambs or the sheep to run to the other side.

For your added safety you can download the Icelandic Traffic Sign app (Android only).

Important points

  • In Iceland, drivers and passengers are required by law to wear seatbelts, regardless of the type of vehicle or where they are seated.
  • It should be noted that children must either wear seatbelts, or be in car safety seats, depending on their age and maturity.
  • It is against the law to operate a vehicle in Iceland after having consumed alcohol and the punishment for violating this law is rather stiff.
  • Iceland requires that vehicle headlights be on at all times, day and night, when driving.
  • During the summer, there’s daylight both day and night and the day seems long.
  • Drivers must be aware of this fact and avoid driving for too long, since they may fall asleep while driving.
  • In several places there are traffic signs (rectangular with white numbers on blue background), indicating the recommended maximum speed and where drivers should realise that the permitted speed limit can’t be recommended because of the driving conditions.
  • The use of hands-free equipment is an obligation when talking on a mobile phone and driving at the same time.
  • It is strictly forbidden to drive off-road.  Such driving results in serious damage to sensitive vegetation, which may take nature decades to repair.
  • If any casualties result from risky behaviour on your part, such as from speeding and/or driving while under the influence of alcohol, there is an increased likelihood that you will be charged with reckless manslaughter.
  • In addition, insurance companies have the right to demand reimbursement for any damage you are responsible for.
  • The Road Traffic Directorate has produced the video “How to Drive in Iceland” which covers most of the points that are mentioned here in this article.


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