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

A man rides an electric scooter through Rome, Italy.
A man rides an electric scooter through Rome, Italy. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP
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.

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.

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  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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