Why are Italians such crazy drivers?

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Italy produces Europe's most reckless drivers, according to a survey by the French motorway operator, Vinci. Photo: Italy traffic photo: Shutterstock
10:30 CET+01:00
The Italians may have given the world Ferrari, but surveys rate them as some of Europe's scariest drivers. The problem? A blatant disregard for the rules, the locals tell us.

They switch lanes hastily, blast their horns, stop for a chat with other drivers, and anything goes when it comes to parking.

Their recklessness makes fellow Europeans fume: 38 percent of the 10,000 questioned in a recent survey by the French motorway operator, Vinci, described Italians as dangerous drivers.

And Italians themselves didn't argue with that depiction, with 58 percent of them agreeing.

At peak times, driving in Italy can be absolute bedlam. Some insight can be gleaned from the video below, filmed in Rome's Piazza Venezia, in 2009:

Even though Italy’s roads are safer than they used to be – fatalities have dropped 23 percent since 2010, according to figures released by the European Commission on Tuesday – the road death rate is still higher than the EU average.

READ MORE: Italy's roads are getting safer: EU

Whether they’re whizzing along cliff-top roads or free-styling on a scooter in a traffic-clogged city, Italians' bad driving is down to a belief that they are "beyond the rules", says Maria, a café owner in Rome, as well as a heavy dose of impatience.

"They are taught the rules during their driving lessons – like anywhere else – but the moment they get their licence, they forget about them," she tells The Local.

"Drivers in the south are worse than those in the north, where things are more orderly. Have you seen the driving in Naples? Well it gets worse further down."

Maria’s son, who works in the café, chips in, describing his mother as a "clumsy" driver. 

She laughs. “I think my way of driving is even worse, being too slow and fearful. You need your wits about you in Italy." 

Remo, an instructor at the Andrea Doria driving school in the capital, insists that he and his colleagues are not to blame for Italians' bad habits. The problem is that young drivers rebel once they get their licence, he says.

"They're taught how to drive correctly and safely at school, but when they finish they do things they weren't taught," he tells The Local.

He adds that learners are also "cutting corners" in an effort to save on the cost of driving lessons. A lesson at Andrea Doria costs €25 for 40 minutes, but the entire course, including theory tests, costs around €700, and can take a year or more to complete.

"Especially with the economic crisis, people are asking family or friends to teach them to drive so they can save money."

Fabio, a pharmacist in his twenties, says he got his licence a couple of years ago but "doesn't drive much" due to the chaos in Rome.

"It’s very difficult to pass your test, and can take a long time," he says.

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"So it’s not about what we’re taught. People ignore the rules, whether it’s speeding or driving through a red light. It's almost part of the mentality."

Mobile phones and other gadgets of modern times also contribute to bad driving, along with good old-fashioned vanity, says Franco, a building concierge.

“People are on the phone, fiddling with the radio, lighting a cigarette, or checking themselves in the mirror…they’re not paying attention while driving.

"If only we could be more like the English," he adds, "who are very courteous and careful drivers."

Italians' parking skills are also pretty unique.

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