Traffic and Road Conditions in Iceland

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions

You must be at least 17 years old to drive in Iceland. You can use your U.S. driver’s license for stays of 90 days or less in Iceland. Be advised that you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.

Less than one-third of Iceland’s total road network is paved (2,262 miles of paved road vs. 5,774 miles of gravel or dirt road). Most of the 900-mile ring road (Highway 1) that encircles the country is paved, but that highway sometimes closes in certain places for road repair. Many other roads outside the capital, especially those that run through the center of the country, are dirt or gravel tracks. Paved roads which end and change to gravel tracks are usually marked with a sign that says “Malbik endar” shortly before the pavement ends – most accidents occur in the first 50 meters of gravel track, when drivers who were traveling at high speeds fail to slow down for the gravel and end up skidding off the roads. Even paved roads tend to be narrow and lack a shoulder or margin. Most bridges are only one lane wide (marked with a sign “Einbreid bru”) so drivers must be alert to oncoming traffic. Extreme care should be taken when driving in rural areas during the winter (October through April), when daylight hours are limited and the weather and road conditions can change rapidly. Drivers should pay special attention to signs marking roads as impassable (the sign will usually say “Ofært”). If you drive on a road that the Icelandic authorities have marked as closed or impassable, and then become stuck, you may incur fines of up to $1500 for emergency assistance. Off-road driving is strictly prohibited in Iceland and can incur fines of up to $2000.

Many routes in the interior of the country are impassable until July due to muddy conditions caused by snowmelt. If you are driving in the interior of Iceland, you should consider traveling with a second vehicle. Always inform someone of your travel plans. For information on current road conditions throughout the country, please consult the Public Roads Administration (Vegagerdin) website or call 1777.

For recorded weather information in English, call the Icelandic Weather Office (Vedurstofa Islands): 522-6000 (during regular office hours) or 902-0600; press 1 for English (pay-per-minute service available 24 hours a day).

Icelandic law requires drivers to keep headlights on at all times. Talking on cell phones while driving is prohibited, except when using a hands-free system, and is subject to a fine of 5000 Icelandic Kronur (approximately 45 US Dollars). Unless otherwise posted, the speed limit is 50 km/h in urban areas and 30 km/h in residential areas. In rural areas, the speed limit depends on the type of road: on dirt and gravel roads, the speed limit is 80 km/h; on paved highways, thespeed limit is 90 km/h. It is illegal to turn right on a red light. At four-way intersections, the right of way goes to the driver on the right; in traffic circles, drivers in the inside lane have the right of way. Many intersections in the capital have cameras to catch traffic violators.

The use of seatbelts is mandatory in both the front and rear seats, and children under the age of six must be secured in a special car seat designed for their size and weight. Drivers are held responsible for any passenger under the age of 15 not wearing a seatbelt. No one shorter than 140 centimeters, lighter than 40 kilograms (or 88 pounds), or younger than 12 years of age is allowed to ride in a front seat equipped with an airbag.

Driving under the influence of alcohol is considered a serious offense in Iceland. The threshold blood alcohol test (BAT) level is very low. Drivers can be charged with DUI (Driving Under the Influence) with a BAT as low as .05%. Drivers stopped under suspicion of DUI are usually given a "balloon" or Breathalyzer test. If the test is positive, a blood test is routinely administered. Under Icelandic law, a blood test cannot be refused and will be administered by force if necessary. The minimum punishment for a first offense is a fine of 70,000 Icelandic Kronur (approximately 625 US Dollars) and the loss of driving privileges for two months.

Disclaimer

You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.

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