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Italy launches e-scooter clampdown and bigger fines for phone-using drivers

Italy's updated Highway Code comes in on Wednesday, with fines for people using devices while driving and tougher rules for e-scooters. Here's what changes for everyone using Italy's roads.

Italy's new Highway Code comes into force from Wednesday.
Italy's new Highway Code comes into force from Wednesday. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Cars, motorbikes, pedestrians and e-scooters are all affected in the update to the Highway Code, confirmed by the government’s latest Infrastructure Decree and effective immediately from November 10th.

Among the changes are tighter restrictions for e-scooters, including a reduction in the maximum speed from 25 to 20 kilometres per hour and 6 kilometres per hour in pedestrian areas.

E-scooters are now forbidden on pavements unless they are pushed by hand, and are not allowed to be parked on pavements except in areas permitted by the authorities. Users can still park them in parking bays for bicycles and mopeds.

Under the new changes, scooter rental operators are obliged to ask for a photo at the end of each rental, clearly showing the position of the parking space.

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

This mode of transport will also have to be adapted better to the road, as all models will need indicators and a rear stop light from July next year. Specifically, this must be a fixed white or yellow light at the front and a red light at the back, both of which are lit and in good working order.

In hours of darkness, which is described as from half an hour after sunset, e-scooter drivers must wear a high-visibility reflective vest or harness.

Penalties and confiscation of vehicles will also apply if drivers have modified their e-scooter to go faster.

Only people over fourteen years of age can ride an e-scooter and those under eighteen must wear a protective helmet.

Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

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.

The new restrictions followed reports of eight riders who died in traffic accidents between the start of this year and September, according to the news daily Repubblica.

E-scooter users aren’t the only ones facing stricter rules.

On the subject of helmets, fines will also be issued to any motorbike driver carrying a passenger not wearing a helmet. Until now, it was only required for passengers under eighteen.

Drivers distracted by using devices will also face tougher penalties under the updated rules. This includes motorists caught using a tablet while driving under the new definition of devices.

In fact, the list of electronic devices that cannot be used while driving has now been extended to include “smartphones, portable computers, notebooks, tablets and similar devices that even temporarily take the hands off the steering wheel”.

READ ALSO: ‘Anyone can do it’: Why passing your Italian driving test isn’t as difficult as it sounds

Photo: ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP

Despite, some parliamentarians previously asking that fines be significantly raised for those caught on their smartphones or tablets while driving, the sanctions remain unchanged.

There will also be no suspension of the licence for the first offence. This is much more lenient than what was discussed – of anywhere from seven days to two months for first time offenders, as news agency Ansa reported.

Other changes to the Highway Code include an obligation to give way to pedestrians. Drivers must stop and let through not only those who have already started to cross but also those who are about to.

The new rules of the road have also introduced tougher measures for combatting littering.

Fines will be doubled for those who throw objects or waste onto the road, ranging from a minimum of €216 to €866 for those caught chucking waste from a stationary or moving car. Previously this was between €108 to €433.

READ ALSO: ‘Expect the unexpected’: What you need to know about driving in Italy

Meanwhile, those who toss a cigarette butt or waste paper out of the window while driving will have to pay between €56 and €204 compared to the previous fine of €26 to €102.

Provisions have also been made for disabled parking spaces. From January 2022, people with disabilities will be able to park free of charge in the blue lines when there are no reserved spaces available.

The update also introduced so-called “pink” parking spaces for pregnant women and parents with children up to two years of age.

Penalties apply to those who take these parking spaces without being eligible, ranging from €80 to €328 for two-wheeled vehicles and from €165 to €660 for other types of transport.

There’s also good news for learner drivers, as the validity of the learner’s permit or foglio rosa has been extended from the previous six months to one year. This gives learners the chance to repeat the driving test for a licence, the patente B, three times.

The proposed controversial driver smoking ban was rejected.

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

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DRIVING

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.

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