Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag


Travellers spent Christmas Day stuck on heath: Failed to heed signs saying road impassable

By Staff

  • Not clear enough Drivers keep ignoring the barricade which includes this sign notifying people the road is impassable. 

Members of ICE-SAR units in East Iceland spent Christmas Day on a rescue operation on Breiðdalsheiði heath after a group of travellers failed to heed signs indicating the road was impassable. The group had driven around a roadblock with a sign, notifying drivers the road had been closed.

Spent Christmas day stuck on a heath
The travellers, who are from Thailand, got their car stuck in deep snow on Breiðdalsheiði, on a road called Axarvegur, Road 939. To get on the road the travellers had to drive around a roadblock with prominent warning signs notifying drivers the road was closed and impassable. The people were finally escorted down from the heath at 11:00 on evening of Christmas Day. They had spent 8-9 hours stuck on the heath before they were finally rescued.

This is not the first time travellers fail to take roadblocks and warning signs at Axarvegur seriously, forcing police and the all-volunteer ICE-SAR units to spend time and resources on easily avoidable rescue missions. 

GPS equipment, and baffling behaviour to blame


Axarvegur, by

Jökull Fannar Helgason, who is a member of ICE-SAR regional command in East Iceland told the National Broadcasting Service RÚV that he suspects the reason is that GPS equipment in rental cars shows the road as the shortest route from South East Iceland to Egilsstaðir town. Placing a barricade on the road didn't seem to be enough to keep people from attempting to drive the road. "The barricade doesn't seem to be enough. People just drive around it, which is a bit odd."

The current barricade only closes the road partially, allowing cars to drive around it. ICE-SAR is placing a larger barricade across the road to make it impossible for drivers to ignore the the fact that the road is closed. 

Read more: Travellers don't understand that signs reading "impassable" mean road is, in fact, impassable

Axarvegur is a mountain pass which offers a shortcut from the Ring Road in Berufjörður fjord in the Eastfjords to Egilsstaðir town in East Iceland. Although the road is passable for most vehicles in the summer it is frequently impassable in the winter. GPS equipment in rental cars fails to take this into consideration, and frequently shows the road as the most direct route when taking the Ring Road to Egilsstaðir. 


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