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The safety warning that should come with Iceland’s Northern Lights

When Iceland’s sky glows green with sudden streaks of purple and yellow, it’s hard to keep your eye on the road. This is why you should.


Last year, 18 people were killed on Iceland’s roads, half of them foreigners. In 2017, more foreigners than locals were killed. So this year, the country’s police are urging tourists to keep their eyes on the road and be wary of changing conditions, AP reported.



The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights are the result of a magnetic solar wind slams into the Earth’s magnetic field and causes atoms in the upper atmosphere to glow. And the northern region of Iceland is one of the best places to spot them.


But police say that, even without the distraction of the lights, tourists often lack the skills or experience to navigate Iceland’s roads in winter.


“The weather in Iceland changes every five minutes, so to speak, and road conditions change accordingly,” superintendent Johannes Sigfusson of the Akureyri Police Department, the largest in the northern region, told AP.


“In a matter of minutes, a dry road can turn icy and slippery.


“The risk is compounded in the middle of the night, when an inexperienced driver is deprived of sleep and with one eye on the sky.”


According to police, tourists are often found driving around while sleep-deprived or without lights on to prevent light pollution. Some accidents even occur just because tourists hit the brakes quickly because of a sudden Northern Lights sighting and then get hit from behind.


Authorities have pointed out that Reykjavik, Akureyri and other areas have tourism companies that offer nightly Northern Lights bus tours almost daily in the winter so tourists can leave the driving to professionals.


Written by: Gaya Avery
Published: 15 January 2019

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