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About the Icelanders 9: Traffic culture

Earlier this week I wrote a brief rant treatise about the Icelanders’ irreverence when it comes to other people’s cars, and their motoring skills in general.

I was not kidding about this.


Once I had a conversation with someone who was working at one of the embassies in town. He told me that the ambassador of that embassy did everything he could to avoid driving in Iceland because he was so scared out in traffic. Nowhere had he encountered driving culture as nerve-wracking as in Iceland. And this was a man whose previous postings included Athens, Greece and parts of Africa.

The main reason for his terror was the unpredictability of Icelandic drivers. This is something that frequently gets mentioned with regards to the Icelanders and their driving. Sure, there are parts of the world where the traffic is all over the place, but – at least according to the good ambassador – there is some logic to the chaos. In Iceland there is none. Someone may suddenly stop the car in front of you for no good reason … say because they spotted something in someone’s front yard and wanted a closer look. They won’t even have noticed that there were cars behind them – and if they had, they wouldn’t have cared.

You never know where you have them, and that’s the scary part.

Many Icelanders still drive like they are all alone on a gravel road with no one in front or behind them. This nation has moved from a rural to an urban society so fast that the generational mindset has not managed to keep up. The abysmal traffic culture being one of the symptoms.

[Pic found here. More on the Icelanders here.]