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DRIVING

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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BREXIT

Q&A: What to know about the Italy-UK driving licence agreement

After the UK and Italy announced a deal meaning British residents can swap their driving licences in 2023, The Local answers your questions about how the process will work.

Q&A: What to know about the Italy-UK driving licence agreement

Following the British Embassy in Rome’s announcement on December 23rd that that the UK and Italian governments had signed a long-term agreement on the issue of driving licences post-Brexit, the British government has now published some further details about the deal in guidance published in an update to its ‘Living in Italy’ web page.

Once it comes into force, the agreement means residents in Italy will be able to exchange their UK-issued licence for an Italian one “without the need to take a test”, the British government confirmed.

READ ALSO: UK and Italy sign long-term agreement on driving licences

British ambassador to Rome Ed Llewellyn said the long-term agreement would come into force in “early 2023”, though no specific date has yet been confirmed.

The UK government also confirmed that the grace period had also been extended again to allow holders of UK licences to continue driving in Italy – which means you won’t need to take any action just yet.

In the meantime, we’ve received a number of questions at The Local from readers wondering how the rules might apply once in force.

Here are some of those questions answered based on the British government’s latest guidance.

Who will be able to exchange their licence?

The guidance states that the agreement “will apply to all holders of a valid UK licence provided that they have been resident in Italy for less than six years at the time of application for exchange,” but added: “UK licence holders who acquired residence in Italy on or before 31 December 2020 may exchange their licence even if they have been resident in Italy for more than six years.”

When should I start the exchange process?

It’s not clear when this will be possible yet – but UK licences will remain valid in Italy until the end of 2023.

As the government’s guidance says: “You can’t exchange your licence yet, as the agreement will need to enter into force.”

“We will provide an update on these proceedings in due course. In the meantime, we are pleased to announce that current arrangements on driving in Italy for those holding a UK licence remain in place. Valid UK driving licences held by those who are resident in Italy by 31 December 2022 will be recognised until 31 December 2023.”

What will the process involve?

Full details should come once the UK-Italy bilateral agreement come into force, but for now the requirements for conversion of licences from other countries which have similar agreements with Italy may give an idea of what you’ll need to do.

The Italian Ministry of Transport’s website states that applications must be made at your local Ufficio di Motorizazzione Civile (find yours here), and requirements currently include completing a form, paying a €32 fee, handing over your original licence, and providing copies of your Italian tax code and ID.

READ ALSO: Who needs to exchange their driving licence for an Italian one?

Italian police officers setting up a roadblock

Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Can all categories of driving licence be exchanged?

It looks like the deal covers most types of licence, but we’ll need to wait for confirmation for each category.

“Tables of equivalence have been included in the agreement and the majority of categories will be able to be carried over to an Italian licence,” the guidance reads.

Will I have to give up my UK licence?

If you were hoping to keep hold of your UK driving licence as well as getting a new Italian one, it seems you’re out of luck.

“It is not possible to hold licences issued by the UK and Italy at the same time,” the UK government’s guidance states.

“If you live in Italy, you can drive on your UK licence for the first twelve months of living here, during which time you must obtain an Italian licence,” it adds.

“If you return to live in the UK at any point, you will be able to exchange your Italian licence for a UK one without taking a test.”

If I previously swapped my Italian licence for a British one, can I now switch back?

It looks as if this will be possible once the deal comes into force, as the guidance says:

“You will be able to exchange your licence to an Italian one provided that the country where your licence was first issued has an agreement or understanding with Italy on licence exchange.”

See the UK government’s latest guidance on the deal in full here and find more information on their official Living in Italy page.

Please note that The Local is unable to advise on individual cases. For further information, we recommend speaking to your local Ufficio di Motorizazzione Civile in Italy. 

We will update this page with further information once it becomes available. Find our latest Brexit-related news updates for UK nationals in Italy here.

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