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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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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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