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Italy expands e-scooter crackdown and plans bigger fines for phone-using drivers

Plans to regulate electric scooters are taking shape as Italian lawmakers updating the Highway Code submit their final amendments, proposing changes such as maximum speed limits and parking restrictions.

A man rides an electric scooter through Rome, Italy.
Electric scooters have become a common sign on the streets of Rome since 2020. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Final changes to Italy’s infrastructure decree, which governs the country’s laws relating to transport and public works, are expected to be passed by parliament later this week – with e-scooter regulations and a proposed driver smoking ban among the most pressing topics.

Following initial proposals, the Minister of Sustainable Infrastructure and Mobility, Enrico Giovannini, has presented some last stage measures for the transport decree (decreto trasporti), reported news agency Ansa.

Among them is a ban on parking electric scooters on pavements and the provision of special parking areas, a reduction in the maximum speed from 25 to 20 kilometres per hour and confiscation of any scooters that have been modified to go faster.

This mode of transport will also have to be adapted better to the road, requiring all models to have indicators and a rear stop light.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Italy’s electric scooter craze

Representatives of the far-right League party told the Transport Committee that they will “continue their battle to ensure the safety of both those who use scooters and all other users of our roads”, according to reports.

“The electric scooter is not a toy and, unfortunately, there are more and more road accidents, including serious ones,” they added.

Electric scooters have become popular in cities across Italy in the last couple of years, with multiple brands making them available for quick and easy use via sharing apps.

Italian media reported a “boom” in the use of electric scooters, or monopattini, in Italian cities amid the pandemic as people avoided public transport.

But they are seen as a scourge by many residents, who complain of reckless riders going at top speed on pavements and obstructing pedestrian access by dumping the vehicles on public walkways.

Those requesting changes have suggested that the scooters should only be parked in designated zones and banned altogether from some parts of cities.

E-scooters block access to a pavement in Rome's Porta Portese neighbourhood in September 2021.

E-scooters block access to a pavement in Rome’s Porta Portese neighbourhood in September 2021. Photo: The Local

Other proposed amendments, like making helmets compulsory, are designed to protect users themselves – but this is expected to only be required for people up to 14 years of age.

Eight riders have died in traffic accidents between the start of this year and September, according to the news daily Repubblica, while the newspaper Il Messaggero reports that the vehicles were connected to a serious accident once every three days in 2020. 

Scooters aren’t the only topic up for debate in the new decree, to which 434 amendments have been proposed, according to news outlet

READ ALSO: Italy to double fines for disabled parking space violations

Some parliamentarians have asked that fines be significantly raised for those caught on their smartphones or tablets while driving –  from the current range of  €167 to €661 up to between €422 and €1,697, rising to between €644 and €2,588 for a repeat violation within a two year period.

Driving licenses could be suspended for anywhere from seven days to two months for first time offenders, and between one and three months for those caught reoffending within two years, reports news agency Ansa.

A seatbelt requirement for school buses and the extension of the validity of the foglio rosa learner’s permit, which allows individuals who have passed their theory exam but not yet taken their practical driving test to get behind the wheel, are among the other requested changes.

But perhaps the most controversial proposal is a blanket ban on smoking while driving.

READ ALSO: Could Italy become the first European country to ban smoking while driving?

Almost one quarter of the Italian adult population smokes, according to World Health Organisation data, at 23 percent – slightly above the EU average. 

At the moment, lighting up in the car is only illegal in Italy if you’re with anyone who is under 18 or pregnant, with fines of between €50 and €500 in place for those caught smoking in a vehicle with pregnant women or children under the age of twelve.

Similar rules are in place in several European countries including Austria, France, Greece, Finland and the UK, though none have a complete ban on smoking at the wheel.

If the amendment were passed, it would make Italy the first European country to impose such a sweeping restriction.

Member comments

  1. I’d welcome not only higher fines for mobile phone use, but also some semblance of Police actually enforcing this law, regardless of how high the fines are, it’s not a prevention unless the law is enforced. As a cyclist in Rome it is astonishing how many car drivers, bus drivers, coach drivers and lorry drivers I see using their phones whilst driving, holding them in their hands, and people of all ages, it’s not restricted to any particular age group.

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COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

Certain countries around Europe have stricter policies than others regarding drinking and driving and harsher punishments for those caught exceeding legal limits. Here's what you need to know.

COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

European countries set their own driving laws and speed limits and it’s no different when it comes to legal drink-drive limits.

While the safest thing to do of course, is to drink no alcohol at all before driving it is useful to know what the limit is in the country you are driving in whether as a tourist or as someone who frequently crosses European borders by car for work.

While some countries, such as the Czech Republic, have zero tolerance for drinking and driving, in others people are allowed to have a certain amount of alcohol in their blood while driving.

However, not only can the rules be different between countries, they are usually stricter for commercial (or bus) drivers and novice drivers as well. Besides that, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is extremely difficult to estimate, so the old “one beer is ok” standards no longer safely apply.

In the end, the only way to be safe is to avoid consuming alcohol before driving. Any amount will slow reflexes while giving you dangerous higher confidence. According to the UK’s National Health Service, there is no ‘safe’ drinking level.

How is blood alcohol level measured?

European countries mostly measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is the amount, in grams, of alcohol in one litre of blood.

After alcohol is consumed, it will be absorbed fast from the stomach and intestine to the bloodstream. There, it is broken down by a liver-produced enzyme.

Each person will absorb alcohol at their own speed, and the enzyme will also work differently in each one.

The BAC will depend on these metabolic particularities as well as body weight, gender, how fast and how much the person drank, their age and whether or not (and how much) they have eaten, and even stress levels at the time.

In other words there are many things that may influence the alcohol concentration.

The only way to effectively measure BAC is by taking a blood test – even a breathalyser test could show different results. Still, this is the measuring unit used by many EU countries when deciding on drinking limits and penalties for drivers.

Here are the latest rules and limits.

Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Greece, Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, and Croatia

In most EU countries, the limit is just under 0.5g/l for standard drivers (stricter rules could be in place for novice or professional drivers).

This could be exceeded by a man with average weight who consumed one pint of beer (containing 4.2% alcohol) and two glasses of red wine (13% alcohol) while having dinner.

If a person is caught driving with more than 0.8g/l of blood alcohol content in Austria, they can pay fines of up to € 5,900 and to have their license taken for one year in some cases.

In France, if BAC exceeds 0.8g/l, they could end up with a 2-year jail sentence and a € 4,500 fine. In Germany, penalties start at a € 500 fine and a one-month license suspension. In Greece, drunk drivers could face up to years of imprisonment.

In Denmark, first time offenders are likely to have their licences suspended and could be required to go on self-paid alcohol and traffic courses if BAC levels are low. Italy has penalties that vary depending on whether or not the driver has caused an accident and could lead to car apprehension, fines and prison sentences.

In Spain, going over a 1.2g/l limit is a criminal offence that could lead to imprisonment sentences and hefty fines. 

Norway, Sweden, and Poland

In Norway, Sweden, and Poland, the limit for standard drivers is 0.2g/l. It could take a woman with average weight one standard drink, or one can of beer, to reach that level.

Penalties in Norway can start at a one month salary fine and a criminal record. In Poland, fines are expected if you surpass the limit, and you could also have your license revoked and receive a prison sentence.

Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia

The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia have one of the strictest rules in the European Union. There is no allowed limit of alcohol in the blood for drivers.

In the Czech Republic, fines start at € 100 to € 800, and a driving ban of up to one year can be instituted for those driving with a 0.3 BAC level. However, the harshest penalties come if the BAC level surpasses 1 g/l, fines can be up to € 2,000, and drivers could be banned from driving for 10 years and imprisoned for up to three years.

This is intended to be a general guide and reference. Check the current and specific rules in the country you plan to travel to. The easiest and best way to be safe and protect yourself and others is to refrain from drinking alcohol and driving.