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REVEALED: How Italy is tightening road safety rules

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The Local/AFP ([email protected])
REVEALED: How Italy is tightening road safety rules
Users of e-scooters face new restrictions under Italy's new road safety bill. Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP.

After weeks of rumours and intense media speculation, a new bill seeking to tighten up Italy’s road safety rules was announced by the government on Tuesday. Here are the key takeaways.

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Users of e-scooters face a crackdown and drink drivers will be subject to harsher penalties under Italy's draft road safety law, which was approved by cabinet ministers on Tuesday evening.

Notably, no mention of a requirement for cyclists to register licence plates, buy insurance or install indicators - restrictions Transport Minister Matteo Salvini had previously said he wanted to introduce - was included in the text.

The bill now begins its passage through parliament, where it is subject to further changes. The decree is expected to be converted into law within two months.

An update to Italy's Highway Code was first announced in early June, as Salvini pledged to introduce “more rules, more education, more safety on Italian roads” after the number of annual road deaths in the country rose again to 3,120 in 2022.

But biking associations decried his plans to mandate number plates for cyclists, with bicycle manufacturers association ANCMA arguing the proposal was "more about stopping the spread of bicycles than increasing safety on the roads."

Instead, the government has ultimately focused its attention on restricting the use of electric scooters - widely viewed as a scourge by pedestrians and motorists alike in Italy - and increasing sanctions against drunk drivers.

E-scooters, which spiked in popularity after the coronavirus lockdowns, will now require a registration plate and must be insured for use on public roads, according to the draft law.

There were over 45,000 rental e-scooters in Italy in 2021, according to the Sharing Mobility Observatory.

They have proved a hit, particularly in cities with heavy traffic or few cycle routes, but drivers complain they are dangerous and they are regularly left blocking pavements or disabled access routes in major cities.

Tourists and locals can also often be seen whizzing around busy Rome roads without helmets.

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Users will have to wear a helmet and it will be illegal to park the e-scooters on pavements under the bill.

It also ups penalties for drink driving, from imposing so-called Alcolocks - which require a driver to provide a breath sample before starting the vehicle - to a 30-year ban for those who cause serious incidents while under the influence of alcohol.

The bill introduces a zero tolerance policy for driving on illegal drugs, with drivers who test positive for any amount of substance facing a licence suspension of up to three years.

Motorists caught using their mobile phones while driving also face a suspension of between seven and 20 days unless they have the full 20 points on their licence.

Young people who have just passed their driving test can get bonus points for attending road safety courses.

Salvini drew on the advice of various experts for the bill, as well as meeting with "influencers" on how best to communicate with young people about road safety, the ministry said.

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Italy had 53 road deaths per million inhabitants in 2022, compared to 49 in France and 34 in Germany, while the EU average is 46, European Commission data showed.

In the latest high-profile case, YouTubers driving a Lamborghini for a stunt crashed into a family car in Rome earlier this month, killing a five-year-old boy and injuring his mother and sister.

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