Will Italy's new driving laws get lost in traffic?

Will Italy's new driving laws get lost in traffic?

By Malcolm Moore in Rome


Rome has more cars per heads than any other city on Earth and Italy's roads are amongst the most dangerous in Europe. Britain has Europe's safest roads

By nine o'clock in the morning, Rome's Piazza Venezia is a snarling mass of cars, motorcycles and scooters. A policeman bravely attempts to direct the flow from a podium, but to little effect.

The large piazza, around which Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn coasted on a Vespa in Roman Holiday, is overwhelmed by at least six streams of competing traffic.

Entering the fray on a Honda scooter, I am cut up on all sides, and swerve to avoid the aggressive buses. It is a dangerous pursuit - Romans come off their mopeds with alarming regularity.

Rome has more cars per head than any other city in the world, and Italy has a serious road crash problem - last year 5,000 people died on Italy's roads, and 330,000 were injured. Road accidents are the leading cause of death for Italians between the age of 15 and 29.

But now, the Italian government has clamped down on the mad, bad and dangerous drivers with a raft of new laws. Motorists using mobile phones will be fined up to 400 and banned for six months. Illegal manoeuvres can land drivers with a suspension of up to two years. There will also be point penalties for anyone failing to stop for pedestrians.

While the current motorway speed limit is 81mph, young drivers are to be restricted to cars that can only reach 62mph. Lorry drivers will be heavily fined for not taking breaks.

The most stringent penalties, however, are reserved for drunk drivers, who will be fined 2,750. Offenders who cause a crash will get six months in prison and a 8,200 fine. Bars and clubs have been asked to identify designated drivers at the door and not serve them any alcohol.

In the Piazza Venezia, however, the heavy penalties appear to have been lost amid the heavy traffic. I saw one motorcyclist on his phone as he drove and, as I cut across five lanes of traffic, none of the 30 policemen standing in the square blinked.

European road fatalities per 100,000 population

Portugal - 21
Greece - 20.2
Spain - 14.6
France - 14.4
Belgium - 13.7
Luxembourg - 13.5
Austria - 13.4
Italy - 11
Ireland - 11
Denmark - 9.7
Germany - 9.5
Netherlands - 6.9
Sweden - 6.6
Britain - 5.9

Wow! Driving there would suck. They should do what Singapore does and limit the number of people that are allowed to drive cars in the downtown of the city. That is limit driving to where there is good transit coverage.

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