Saturday, May 5, 2007


This will probably end up being three parts so today I’ll talk about some general rules of the road and a few regulations.

Note, I’m just giving some personal thoughts on driving, so don’t depend on this as an actual list of the laws. I take no responsibility for these comments. Use them at your own risk.

First if you think you might drive while in Italy stop off at the Auto Club and get an international drivers license. It’s basically just a translation of your US license. It is required in Italy, you must also have your actual US license in your position.

If you get stopped which is actually pretty unlikely, and are ticketed you might have to pay a fine on the spot that is the law for anyone coming from a country such as the US that does not have an agreement for reciprocal licensing.

You can drive in Italy with your foreign license for 1 year before having to get an Italian license.

So now some general points, no matter what you might think about the craziness of Italian drivers you do have to follow the rules here. At least you do in the North where I’ve been driving. It’s not that much different than driving in the US. Don’t be afraid of driving, just pay attention and drive pretty much like you do at home.

Wear you seat belt, it’s the law
Do not drink and drive if stopped you might get the car taken away and arrested.
Do not talk on the cell phone, unless using a hands free setup.
Do not eat a hamburger, French fries and drink a coke while driving, just kidding. But generally, don’t take your eyes off the road things seem to happen faster here.
You can not turn right on a red light.
Look for the white line at the stop light it is well before the actual light if you stop too far forward you might not be able to see the light change.
If you see a pedestrian standing in the crosswalk you must stop for him. Some people actually do stop.
A stop sign does mean stop but it seems to be more of a stronger yield sign, rolling stops seem to be ok.
Drivers are required by law to stop and aid injured people in accidents.
No matter what you may have heard there are speed limits, so pay attention to them.
Italian drivers get really pissed if you don’t signal before turning, it’s mainly because they are usually following too close.
Round abouts are fun and all over the country, the cars inside them have the right of way, when entering there seems to be a bunch of confusion about who has the right of way. It should be the person on the right, but I don’t think anyone understands that, just be careful and a little aggressive.
You are required to drive to the right of the road. It means stay in the right lane, but more about that next.
When driving on the Autostrada or main roads you must have your lights on even in day time. So just turn them on all the time.
Get a copy of the European road signs and study them.

Now some general hints that don’t have much to do with the rules.
The Autostrada is pretty much like a US freeway. They are generally in good condition. I always use them.
But, you must be a little more careful than in the US. You only pass on the left, so no weaving in and out.
If another car comes up behind you move over out of it’s way so they can pass. Try not to get too pissed off, as I do at times, when they ride your rear bumper flashing their lights even if there are twenty cars in front of you going slow.
Trucks are the major hazard on the Autostrada. They will pass each other moving into the lane you are in cutting you off. So watch them, if you see one approaching another in front of him be aware that he will probably want to pass rather than lose his momentum.
I’ve discovered that it seems safer to drive fairly fast and stay in the far left lane as much as possible as on a three lane road the trucks aren’t allowed in that lane. If you drive slow in the left lane you will be constantly having to move over so cars can pass you which is a big pain in the ass.

Finding your way around is a lot fun, the good thing is that there are plenty of signs, almost too many. The main idea is to know what major cities are in your general direction. The signs will always point you towards those cities. If you have a portable navigation gps why not get maps for Italy and bring it along. We got one and use it all the time.

Driving in the city, good news is Italians don’t generally get too worked up if you cross three lanes to make a left turn in front of them and other such things that might cause road rage in the US. Seems to me like everyone is just trying to get where they are going. They can be pushy, my hint is to never acknowledge the presence of the other drivers. Just drive like you know where you are going. Of course you still have to look out for them and follow common sense driving rules. It’s just that if you get too timid you’ll get left behind.

I think that’s it for this chapter.

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