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DRIVING

One third of people in Italy don’t wear seatbelts, study finds

Italian motorists and their passengers are far more prone to risky behaviour than their European counterparts, a new report suggests.

One third of car users in Italy don’t use seatbelts, according to a new study.
One third of car users in Italy don’t use seatbelts, according to a new study. Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

Almost one third of car users in Italy, or 28.8 percent, don’t use seatbelts when driving or riding as passengers in cars, according to new figures published in the report User Driving Styles Observatory Research (Ricerca Osservatorio Stili di Guida Utenti), produced by engineering and architecture firm Studio Righetti and Monte.

That rate increases to 31.9 percent for front car passengers; and rises to a shocking 80.1 percent if you take into account only rear passengers.

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

The study, commissioned by state-owned road management company ANAS, analysed the driving habits of a sample of 6,000 users along three different types of Italian roads and motorways.

It found that 55.6 percent of drivers on Italian roads do not use their indicators when overtaking, and as many as 76.5 percent don’t indicate when moving back into the slow lane.

Approximately half (49.5 percent) of motorists do not use child booster seats, while just over one in ten (12.4 percent) illegally use their mobile phone while driving – a figure that jumps to 18 percent among 18 to 40-year-olds.

Italy’s government says it has allocated over 3 billion euros for road improvements.

Italy’s government says it has allocated over 3 billion euros for road improvements. Photo: Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Italy compares poorly to other European countries, the study says, where an average of 90% of motorists wear front seat belts and 71% of passengers wear rear seat belts.

The findings were presented on Sunday at a road safety conference timed to coincide with the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, which takes place every year on the third Sunday in November, reports news agency Ansa.

Speaking at the conference on Sunday, Italy’s Minister of Sustainable Infrastructures and Mobility Enrico Giovannini described the figures as “totally unsatisfactory” and said more road safety training was necessary, reports national broadcaster Rai.

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

The minister stressed that the government has allocated more than three billion euros to make improvements to Italian roads and motorways, and said it was providing financial incentives to manufacturers to make more new cars and for families to purchase recent second hand car models, noting that many vehicles on Italy’s roads are old and lack adequate safety features.

Earlier this month, Italy’s government updated the country’s Highway Code, with new sanctions for drivers caught using tablets and other electronic devices besides cell phones and stricter rules about giving way to pedestrians included among the reforms.

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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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