Driving in Italy

Helpful Pages


Miles vs. Kilometers

  • Speed limits in Europe are posted in kilometers (Km) per hour as opposed to miles per hour in the U.S. Most U.S. speedometers will only show miles per hour (although some show BOTH).
  • One kilometer is approximately 5/8 (.625) of a mile.
  • A quick conversion formula from kilometers (kph) to miles per hour (mph) is to multiply the number of kilometers by 6 and drop the last digit of the result. Ex. 100 kilometers per hour x 6 = 600, drop the last digit to get 60 miles per hour
  • To convert miles per hour to kilometers per hour, divide miles by 6 and add a zero to the results. Ex. 60 miles per hour / 6 = 10, add a zero to get 100 kilometers per hour.

Right of Way

  • All vehicles approaching from the right have the right of way, except when indicated by road signs.
  • Exceptions are usually indicated by triangular signs meaning “Caution-Yield Right-of-Way”, or by “Stop” signs, or diamond shaped signs meaning you are on a priority road and have the right-of-way.
  • Vehicles being backed, making U-turns, or entering traffic will give the right-of-way to all other vehicles
  • Vehicles already inside a traffic circle have the right of way. Incoming traffic should yield.
  • Green arrows on traffic lights do NOT imply right of way.

Bicycles and Scooters

  • Bicycle and scooter riders have the same rights and responsibilities as other users of the road.
  • Use caution when making right turns at intersections. Bicycles or scooters might attempt to pass on the right after you have slowed down for a right turn.
  • A cyclist should be given a minimum of one meter clearance when being passed.
  • Italian law requires that bicycles be equipped with the following:
    1. a bell
    2. two independent braking systems
    3. yellow reflectors fitted on the pedals
    4. a white or yellow front light
    5. a red tail light and reflector
    6. and a seat if small children are carried
    7. all Military ID Card holders are required to wear an approved safety helmet while operating a bicycle on or off post
  • Bicyclists should use hand signals when turning or stopping
    • Raise the arm vertically as a stop signal
    • Hold the arm horizontally to the left or right in the direction of travel

Turning and Signaling

  • Drivers must use turn signals at all times and in sufficient time to indicate their intention to change direction of travel.
  • There are no right turns on a red traffic light allowed in Italy.
  • When using a traffic circle, only signal when you are leaving the traffic circle (not when entering).
  • Sound signals should not be used in inhabited areas unless there is an emergency (carrying someone that is injured or seriously ill).

Passing

  • It is illegal to begin passing another vehicle when the driver preceding or following has already made signals of their intention to pass.
  • No passing will be done on three-lane highways when another vehicle coming from the opposite direction is already occupying the center lane for passing purposes.
  • Trolley cars will be overtaken on the right, except when there is a traffic island. Passing a trolley will be prohibited while passengers are entering or exiting from the trolleys stopped in the middle of the road.
  • You can pass on the right when a driver in the left hand lane signals a left turn
  • Do not cut across military convoys, troop or student formations, processions

Headlights

  • Headlights should be turned on from a half hour before sunset to a half hour after sunrise and under any circumstances of limited visibility.
  • They must be on at all times when traveling on the autostrada.
  • Must be used during daytime within tunnels
  • Lights must  be on when operating a vehicle outside city limits

Speed Limits

  • The speed limit for urban/inhabited areas is 50 kph (31 mph) unless otherwise indicated
  • The speed limit for the autostrada is 130 kph (81 mph) unless otherwise indicated.
  • On the autostrada the ticket you receive will be time stamped. If you get off of the autostrada too soon, you were obviously traveling much faster than the speed limit allows and could be issued a ticket.
  • Beware the occasional animal-drawn cart or wagon on the highway without lights.
  • Do not drive at a speed which makes your stopping distance greater than your vision ahead.

Emergency Vehicles

  • Pull to the right and stop when you see a flashing blue light and hear alarm signals on emergency vehicles.
  • Exercise extreme caution when you only see a flashing blue light.

Parking

  • Do not park within a distance of 26 feet (8 meters) from an intersection or road crossing or junction
  • Do not park within 39 feet (12 meters) from a stop sign for a bus or streetcar.
  • Do not park near curves or hills, pedestrian crossings or driveways
  • Red lines = emergency vehicles only
  • Yellow curb = no parking

Weather Conditions

  • When it first begins to rain you should reduce speed as roads are very dangerous due to an extremely slippery film of oil and grease residue. After an hour or so of hard rain, this slick residue washes off and the pavement becomes somewhat more reliable.
  • Fog is common in Italy during the fall and winter months. Do nut hug the side of the road as there may be bicyclists between the vehicle and the curb. Get off the road if fog becomes too dense.
  • In snow and ice, use a low gear or low range, avoiding any sudden acceleration or deceleration.
  • If you begin to skid always turn your wheels in the direction the car is traveling before applying the brake.
  • During the winter, all weather tires or snow chains might be required on certain roads.

Traffic Lights

  • Red = Stop. No right turns on red!
  • Green = Go. A red light accompanied by green arrows indicates vehicles in the appropriate lanes must follow the direction indicated by the arrow. Green arrows do not imply right of way.
  • Yellow = Stop, unless you are so close to the intersection that stopping may affect safety. A blinking yellow light indicates caution and to reduce speed
  • Blinking red lights indicate a railway crossing and you should stop immediately.
  • Do not rely entirely on watchmen, gates or automatic warning devices when approaching a railway crossing..

Curves

  • Banked curves help overcome centrifugal force and decrease the likelihood of a vehicle running off the road.
  • Un-banked and hair-pin curves are the norm in Italy, especially in rural areas and at traffic circles.
  • Slow down well in advance of a curve and before making a turn.

International Road Signs

  • The following hints may be useful for identifying types of road signs:
    • Triangle-shaped signs with red trim mean “Danger”
    • Circular-shaped signs with red trim mean a “Prohibitory”
    • Circular shaped signs with a blue background mean “Mandatory”
    • Four sided rectangular-shaped signs with a blue background mean “Information”

Italian Autostrada

  • The Italian autostrada has a pay-as-you-go system of toll booths
    • yellow lane = telepass (slowly drive under until your telepass is read)
    • white lane = cash (grab a ticket upon entering, upon exiting insert your ticket and pay the toll)
    • blue lane = credit, debit, or Via card
  • The autostrada has a posted maximum speed limit of 130 kilometers per hour (78mph). However, Italians often travel at much higher speeds.
  • Autostradas may be entered only at officially designated points. You must yield the right-of-way to vehicles already traveling on the autostrada.
  • Headlights are required to be on at all times while traveling on the autostrada.
  • Backing and making U-turns on the autostrada are illegal. If you accidentally go past your exit, drive to the next one and change directions by using the overpass or underpass.
  • Stopping or parking, except in designated parking areas, is forbidden on the autostrada.

Accidents

  • Accident rates are very high in Italy.
  • When involved in a traffic accident, you must report it to the Italian authorities within 72 hrs.
  • Traffic accidents must be reported to the Military Police, no matter how minor,within 24 hours or as soon as possible, by the registered owner or operator.
  • Every driver involved in an accident that may have caused injuries or who comes upon an accident where injuries have resulted have an obligation to stop and render aid to the victim, including transportation to the nearest hospital.
  • You must place a road triangle 200 meters from the vehicle on the autostrada, 100 meters on a priority road, and 50 meters in the city
  • If you cause damage to a vehicle when nobody is present in the vehicle you must try to find the owner and if they cannot be found you should leave your name, address, and POV license number.

Traffic Violations

  • Tickets will be mailed to you. You can take the ticket to MP’s to translate. You will pay for the ticket at the post office and have 30 days to do so.
  • Should you pay a traffic fine to host nation police, ensure that you obtain a receipt
  • In Italy, a reading of .05 on a blood alcohol test is grounds for a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) offense.
    • Zero tolerance 21 and younger
  • A car can only idle for 2 minutes.
  • It is illegal to talk on cellular phones while driving except when using a hands-free device.

Vignette

  • Other countries use a Vignette system for their autostrada.
  • The Vignette is a sticker travelers in that country must purchase and place on the windshield to be able to use the Autostrada system.
  • After crossing the border, you will see signs indicating that a vignette is needed.
  • These can usually be purchased near the borders at gas stations, tobacco shops, border crossings and other locations.
  • Don’t drive without one

Crossing Borders

  • When crossing the border into European Union countries, you will not typically go through a border checkpoint.
  • Regardless, you should always bring your passport and visa or soggiorno (Italian resident permit) with you while traveling.
  • Requirements can vary based on whether you are traveling officially or for personal reasons and whether you are a service member or civilian.
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