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Italian roads ‘more dangerous in north than south’: study

A new attempt to map road safety in Italy appears to show that roads in the south are actually safer. Could it be true?

Italian roads 'more dangerous in north than south': study
Which parts of Italy really are the most dangerous for drivers? Photo: DepositPhotos

Southern Italy is famed for many things, but safe and responsible driving is not one of them. Naples' famous tangenziale, or ring road, is well-known as one of the biggest accident blackspots in Italy.

So a new map based on road safety statistics across Italy raised a few eyebrows by appearing to show that the south of the country is actually a far safer place to drive than the north.

The latest road accident data from national statistics agency Istat was published in map form by Italian financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

Drivers in southern Italy have fewer accidents overall than those in the north, according to the most recent figures available, which date from 2017.

In fact, the data map created by the Italian newspaper is coloured almost completely green (indicating a lower rate of accidents) from Abruzzo down to Sicily.

Meanwhile, much of the north of the country is red – with the exception of most Alpine regions – appearing to show the opposite of what many people would expect.

According to the data, the most dangerous place to drive in Italy is the cty of Genoa.

The data showed that Genoa had 7.6 accidents per 1,000 vehicles on the road, on either two or four wheels.

it was followed by Milan, Savona, Rimini and Prato – all of which are in the north or centre-north of the country. 

The safest area was judged to be the northern region of Aosta, with only 1.07 accidents per 1,000 vehicles. Agrigento in Sicily came next, followed by the southern regions of Avellino, Vibo Valentia and Benevento.

This data includes every type of road accident reported – from minor scrapes to deadly collisions.

When we look at the rate of fatal accidents, however, the figures paint a more familiar picture.

While overall accident rates may be higher in parts of the north, it would seem that the risk of getting into a serious accident is greater in southern Italy.

This is unlikely to come as a shock to anyone who has ever driven in Italy. But some of the regional data may be more surprising.

Rome, which has been ranked in other studies as one of the most dangerous places to drive in Europe, was not rated among Italy's worst this time.

While the capital had a fairly high number of accidents (4.62 per 1,000 vehicles) it was far from the highest in the Istat study, and the city's mortality rate was found to be relatively low.

And, despite its terrible road safety repution, it turns out that Naples is not actually the most dangerous place to drive in southern Italy.

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The south's second city, Bari, is statistically more dangerous, with almost twice as many accidents reported – though it also had the lowest rate of fatal crashes in the south.

Naples too had a relatively low number of fatalities. The number of road deaths in nearby Isernia was more than triple that in Naples.

Overall, the figures show a slight decrease in accident rates across Italy on last year.

Accident rates in Italy peaked in 2002, before steadily declining after the introduction of new road safety laws in 2003 and then mostly levelling off, seeing little change in the past few years.

Overall, Italy still ranks poorly for road safety among other European member states.

Italy has one of the highest numbers of annual road traffic deaths in western Europe, at 55 deaths per million inhabitants in 2017, according to EU statistics. This was more than Spain, with 39.3, and far worse than northern European countries like Norway (20) and the UK (27.1).
 
European statistics show the number of road deaths annually per country. Image: European Transport Safety Council 

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TRAFFIC: The worst dates to travel on Italy’s roads this July

Heatwaves and traffic jams are not a good mix - but both are inevitable during an Italian summer. Here are the busiest dates to avoid when travelling on Italy's motorways this month.

TRAFFIC: The worst dates to travel on Italy's roads this July

Italy’s autostrade (motorways) usually see little in the way of heavy traffic, at least outside of the major cities.

But in summer that all changes, as everyone escapes the baking hot cities for the cooler air of the mountains or the coast.

Not only do motorways become much busier, but many smaller roads, particularly in coastal areas and around holiday hotspots, become completely clogged with traffic.

The increased number of vehicles on the road isn’t just inconvenient: it can also be dangerous, with traffic deaths rising by an estimated seven percent in August.

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

That’s why the Italian government issues warnings each year advising motorists to avoid peak travel times, and even publishes its own calendar showing when traffic is predicted to be at its worst.

The official forecast, produced as part of the ‘Viabilità Italia’ summer travel plan drawn up by the government, emergency services, and and state road agency ANAS, notes particularly busy dates to avoid.

The calendar is colour coded, with a ‘yellow’ spot indicating heavy traffic, ‘red’ indicating heavy traffic with ‘possible critical conditions’, and ‘black’ indicating ‘critical’ (i.e., dire) traffic. 

No ‘black’ days have been predicted for July, but there are plenty of ‘red’ spots: the forecast says drivers can expect to experience heavy traffic on weekends throughout July with conditions worsening towards the end of the month.

Italy July traffic calendar warning
Italy’s July traffic calendar warning. Source: Polizia di Stato.

The roads are predicted to be particularly crowded (a ‘red’ level warning) on Saturday and Sunday mornings, the government’s forecast shows.

Traffic is expected to get heavier on the weekend between Friday 22nd and Sunday 24th July, with highways especially clogged throughout the whole of Sunday 24th.

READ ALSO: How will Italy’s Amalfi Coast traffic limit for tourists work this summer?

The situation is then due to worsen further the following weekend, with the roads starting to fill up from the morning of Friday 29th and a ‘red’ warning appearing from Friday afternoon until the end of Sunday, July 31st.

The last weekend of July is traditionally the date of the first ‘mass exodus’ away from cities as many Italians start their summer holidays.

Traffic is expected to remain at normal levels during the working week (bar Friday afternoons) throughout the month of July.

READ ALSO: Q&A: Your questions answered about driving in Italy on a British licence

While the highways are likely to be jammed at various points over the next few weekends, July is still a better time to travel than in August, when Italians begin their holidays and travel en masse to the beach. 

ANAS has yet to issue its forecast for August, but in previous years there have been multiple ‘black’ weekends warning of hours-long stationary traffic jams, particularly around the main Ferragosto summer holiday on August 15th.

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