Sunday, January 22, 2017

Impassable versus Closed?

I noticed this week a mention in the 'Grapevine', an Icelandic news site in English.....a mention of a particular problem which required the nation of Iceland to react.

The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA) had this meeting.  Their job is to find different ways to improve the safety factor of driving around Iceland.  So they observe trends, graph-chart numbers, and then issue out changes.

Recently, they picked up this odd problem which arose mostly because of increased tourism (1.7 million for the tiny isle in 2016 is now a fact).

When you drive around the country....there are typically three types of roads (at least in my humble opinion). The first is four-star blacktop with some four lanes (very few), and a national road (highway one).  The second is three-star blacktop, which are all two lane operations and maintained to a fair degree.  Then you have the third category, which is non-paved and ought to only be used for six months out of the year.

For the last category, there are typically maps handed out and they are HIGHLY noted as roads with a challenge.  Having driven on two or three of these roads....my perception is that in decent weather....at a very low speed (less than 20 mph), you can probably use the road with a regular vehicle.  Beyond that, you need 4WD, avoid totally from November to April, and think long and hard about the need to be in that type of situation.

At the beginning of each one of these roads, there is a triangle sign with the word "impassable" noted.  In English, it means just that.....it's not a road to drive in winter.

Well, after reviewing the numbers, the IRCA folks have come to discover that a lot of visitors don't take the meaning of impassable to mean avoid.  For some reason, they just keep driving.  Yeah, tourists are that way.

After a long talk, IRCA is pressing on with a big change coming to Iceland in the coming year.....all of the impassable signs will be replaced with "closed".  They think the phrase 'closed' will work better than 'impassable'.  Cost?  Unknown.  Across the whole country, I would take a guess there are at least 200 of these non-paved roads going into some dangerous areas and need the new sign.

The IRCA folks are hinting in various ways that road safety in Iceland is getting to be more of a problem.....mostly because of the tourists.  I noticed from the Iceland Review another recent article which hyped up the statistics issue with tourists.

It's an 80-percent increase with tourist accidents in 2016, compared against 2015.

Why do tourists get into the statistics like this?  Iceland, I think....is this unique place where charm, landscape and character....seem to consume a tourist who is driving along and just not paying attention to the road or traffic.  One minor mistake, and you end up in the ditch.  I admit....I was charmed that way, but avoided the ditch.

Would I observe the closed road sign and not do anything stupid?  Well....there's that charmed landscape situation, and I might just be looking off into the landscape and miss that simple sign.

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