"Yes, the car was heavily damaged. The lower part was all sand-blown," states Rúnar Ólafsson, vehicle manager for the 4x4 Iceland Car Rental. One of their jeeps caught people's attention last week when it was used in reckless off-road driving at Sólheimasandur. The act was caught on camera and has spread widely around social media. The police fined the motorists 250.000 kr for their actions, but on top of that they had to pay 180.000 kr to cover the damages to the jeep. The total cost for the motorists tallies around 430.000 kr in total or the equivalent to 2800 euros.
"It's all there on the video. They were just playing around and damaging the car." Rúnar adds that the men were dejected and slumped when they returned the jeep.
Got on the defensive
Camilla Rut Rúnarsdóttir was working at the car rental when the men arrived.
"They didn't exactly hold their heads high." Camilla points out that the gravel protection they offer is not valid when reckless driving is involved. "We knew why the car was in the condition it was in and because of the video the insurance was void." She says that police were waiting for them when they came to return the car.
"They started by going on the defensive, which is understandable considering the amounts they would be paying. They said things like 'How do you know how this damage occurred, we drove in gravel after the video was shot?' But it was a clear case to everyone," says Camilla. "One of them was acting like that, but the other knew that the blame was theirs and quickly silenced his friend." Camilla adds that they were taken down to the police station, but the biggest concern that the two men showed was for how long the interrogation would last because they intended to party in downtown Reykjavík that night. "They were just a couple of inflated egos from California," says Camilla laughing.
She informed them about the video being posted online, and how the media had covered the story. They were devastated once they realized the impact their off-road driving had had upon our environment. "They asked me to link them the news," which she did.
Cars often returned damaged
"Every day we get cars returned with significant damages." Rúnar says that never before has the damages been caused by reckless off-road driving. "But you never know what people are doing with the cars." He says that he takes care in explaining to tourists what you can and cannot do with a rental car. "There are certain areas in Iceland, for example, that are off-limits to rental cars. It doesn't change the fact that people still go there."
He says that his mind has boggled over some of the things tourists have done with rental cars. "There's a lot of freedom you get by being a tourist here in Iceland, but people tend to abuse it."