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Italy to fine phone-using drivers up to €1,700 in safety crackdown

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Italy to fine phone-using drivers up to €1,700 in safety crackdown
Italian police will soon be able to hand motorists hefty fines for mobile phone use. Photo: Depositphotos
10:52 CEST+02:00
Big changes to Italy’s highway code are coming and they include strict new penalties for anyone caught using a mobile phone while driving.

 Fines for drivers caught texting or talking on the phone are set to quadruple to almost  €1700 and drivers could also face a suspension of between one week and two months.

The rule covers using "smartphones, laptops, notebooks, tablets and similar devices that remove the driver’s hands from the wheel even temporarily.”

Repeat offenders will get a fine of up to €2588 and a three-month suspension under the planned rule change.

An Italian mobile police unit. Photo: Depositphotos

The revisions to the highway code aren’t in force yet. The text has been sent out to Italian ministers this week, and the changes will be voted on by the Italian parliament in May.

Drivers can already be fined between  €161- 467 if they text, call or otherwise use mobiles while driving.

READ ALSO: Rome among worst cities in Europe for road safety, traffic and pollution: Greenpeace

But the penalties are often dismissed in court due to lack of evidence, which has led to a rise in investigators seizing drivers' electronic devices after serious accidents in order to determine whether they were caused by phone-related distractions.

While the number of road deaths in Italy is slowly declining, according to Italian statistics institute Istat, mobile phone use is still one of the biggest factors in accidents.

“Among the most frequent misbehaviours were distraction, failure to observe rules and high speed.” Istat said.

“The most sanctioned violations of the Highway Code were excess speed, failures to use safety devices and the use of mobile phones while driving.”

Italy has one of the highest numbers of annual road traffic deaths in western Europe, at 55 deaths per million inhabitants in 2017.

This was more than Spain, with 39.3, and far worse than northern European countries like Norway (20) and the UK (27.1).

European statistics show the number of road deaths annually per country. Image: European Transport Safety Council 

A raft of other road rules have been tightened in the update, including more roadside checks for drug and alcohol use, and heavier penalties for intoxicated drivers. Anyone who refuses to undergo such a test risks being fined between  €422 - 1,697.

There will also be heavier penalties for parking in reserved spaces. Drivers who occupy disabled parking spaces will be fined up to 647 euros and get four points deducted from their license, while the penalty is two points for taking up spaces reserved for recharging electric cars.

On a more positive note, free parking for pregnant women in so called “pink” parking spaces will be extended to parents of children under 12 months. The mandatory daytime use of low beams will be abolished, and more safety messages will be displayed on road signs.

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