January 17, 2009

As you may be aware, the driving here in Italy is left-hand drive. I feared I might have problems in driving, but it just takes one drive to get accustomed to disorientation. I found driving on Italian roads very easy and joyous. One because traffic is too less, second because everybody follows discipline and third because the traffic signs are sufficiently clear (this was a contrast when I drove on Swiss roads, I remember it was a nightmare).
I really appreciate the driving skills and road sense of Italians. They drive fast but safe, follow all signals correctly and respect rules. Even at 11.55 pm, when there are hardly any vehicles on the road, one stops when there is yellow signal before it becomes red. They don’t break the signal, I came to know the obvious reason later that they have hefty penalty system. Not only they are required to pay but also they loose points from their driving license. If you loose all 20 points, you are required to renew your license by re-appearing driving school & RTO test. So, everybody prefers to follow rules.
On the city roads, vehicles will automatically stop at zebra crossing if you are about to cross the road. The road-walkers, bicycles-riders, scooters will be respected when driving. If road is narrow, and over-taking is not feasible, you will find a long queue of vehicles behind a slow-moving vehicles, but no horns, no rush, no double-queuing. We rarely hear horns so much so that if I press my horn by mistake, I used to get scared by the sound of my own horn. Roads are very very clean and always painted with lane-markings, stop signals.
50% of the city roads have bicycle-strips for bicycle-riders with own signal system and the roads will be sufficiently wide if no cycle-strip. But surprisingly, most of the city roads are single-lane but still vehicles zoom @80 kmph. On highways, they zoom @120, whereas on toll-ways, they traverse @200 kmph. It is really eye-worthy to see ambulances cruising speeding on heavy-traffic roads, with all vehicles giving way to ambulance, stopping if need be.
Though, the road-signs are sufficiently clear, I still get confused when you are trying to find addresses. If you take a wrong turn by mistake, you are in spin and in a endless loop. This happens if you don’t find name of the road when you wish to take turn. Hence, most of the cars are equipped with GPRS navigator with country map.
It is rare to see accidents on the road, but if you happen to see any accident, it is nice to observe what follows after accident. If it is a small accident, and nobody is injured and resulted only in damages to cars, the drivers will get down from their cars in despair and disbelief. No shouting, no bad words, no fighting. They will stop where they are, no movement, no running and no public interference. All the vehicles will stop where they are, may result in traffic jam if no alternative for diversion of traffic. If alternate road is available, the other vehicles will just move from the scene and will carry on their journey. The two drivers will exchange a few words with each other. If no dispute, no police intervention required, both of them will take out their insurance-claim formats, fill it, sign on each-others documents & drive away.
If somebody is injured, some passer-by will call 118 on his mobile, the police, ambulance will arrive within 5-8 minutes. Till that time, nobody will touch injured, because only trained personnel is supposed to bail out the injured. Ambulance people will take care of injured & will take him to hospital and police will take care of rest of the formalities. In such a case, the responsible person will bear the related costs of police & hospital formalities as penalty, in addition to accident penalty and will also loose license points.

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Thane, India
Project Management Professional, PMP Director, Fabtech CE Pvt Ltd, India Currently in Italy for marketing activities in European Engineering Sector. Politically and Socially active, currently active with small political party "Samajvadi Jan Parishad" and social movement promoting intercaste marriages in India "Pratibimb Mishra Vivah Mandal"

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