Iceland Mag

9 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Yesterday's bus accident: Caused by collision with a passenger vehicle on icy road

By Staff

  • At the scene Large stretches of the Ring Road have extremely narrow or no shoulders. Passing cars can be difficult in these areas. Photo/Vilhelm

Police has yet to release a formal statement on the causes of yesterday's bus accident. According to reports and statements from the police, however, it is possible to piece together the chain of events which led to the accident.

Read more: Chinese woman in her 20s died in yesterday's bus accident, some injured still in critical condition

One person, a Chinese woman in her 20s died in the accident. Twelve people suffered serious injuries, some of which are still in critical condition. The bus is equipped with seatbelts, but none of the passengers on the tour bus were wearing seat belts at the time of the accident.

Icy road

Kirkjubæjarklaustur accident

Kirkjubæjarklaustur accident Traffic was rerouted away from the scene. Photo/Vísir, Loftmyndir

Conditions on the Ring Road where the accident took place were challenging due to ice and slippery conditions. At present it is not clear how fast the bus was going at the time of the accident.

Local authorities in the area have on several occasions called for better winter service on the Ring Road east of the village Vík. Due to budget constraints the Icelandic Road and Coastal Authority is unable to de-ice the Ring Road east of Vík as frequently as the road west of the village. 

The IRCA winter service is based on the level of traffic on the road in question. Traffic on the Ring Road between Vík and Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon is not heavy enough to qualify the road for highest priority winter service. Locals have pointed out that the need for better winter service in this area is especially high because as much as two thirds of the traffic in the area are foreign drivers who lack experience driving in Icelandic conditions.

Narrow shoulders

Large stretches of the Ring Road in this area are also extremely narrow, with absolutely no shoulders. This also means it can be challenging to pass a car which has for some reasons been stopped or which is slowing down.

When the road is covered with ice or snow a minor mistake can easily cause a major accident.

A spokesman for the IRCA told the National Broadcasting Service that the winter service schedule would be revised in light of the lessons of yesterday's accident.

Snap decision by a second driver

Kirkjubæjarklaustur bus accident
At the scene All three Coast Guard rescue helicopters participated in the airlifting of victims. Photo/Vilhelm

The bus collided with a passenger vehicle which had been driving in front of the bus. Two people were driving in the passenger vehicle, two Lithuanian travellers. At a scenic stop in Eldhraun lava field, east of Hunkubakkarf farm  the driver of the passenger vehicle made a snap decision to slow down and turn off the road to the parking spot, causing the bus driver to collide with the passenger vehicle and losing control of the bus.

The Lithuanian travellers were unharmed in the accident. 

The manager of the tour company which operates the bus which was involved in yesterday's accident said in a statement on Facebook that snap decisions by travellers have in recent years become a growing threat on Iceland's roads: Travellers who spot a viewing point or a photo opportunity make a sudden decision to stop or slow down.

Read more: Foreign travellers causing accidents by parking their cars in the middle of the highway to take photos

When driving conditions are poor, as they were yesterday, such decisions can easily cause an accident. More and better marked viewing spots along the Ring Road and better shoulders, which would allow drivers to pass one another more safely, have been identified as solutions to this problem.

However, drivers must also take more responsibility and drive in accordance with conditions. Snap decisions to slow down or stop in the middle of the road can be extremely dangerous. This is especially important in the twilight or darkness of winter when visibility is reduced.

Read more: Police stops foreign travellers driving "under the influence of the Aurora"

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