venerdì, luglio 02, 2004

The End of Motorini Madness?

It doesn't take very long, once one is in Italy, to experience the excitement of crossing the road when faced with 50 massed scooter riders that don't give any sign of seeing any road signs, let alone complying with them. What makes it even more 'interesting' is the fact of most of the riders seem to be under the age of 16!

Well, Italy has now decided to introduce and enforce (perhaps) a law to ensure that the huge number of adolescent scooter riders will now have to take some form of test at the end of an enforced training programme. For the majority of the rest of the world this would not seem to be a problem - but, here in Italy, it has been possible for young people over the age of 14 to go and buy (or have bought for them) a 50cc moped and take to the crowded roads immediately - without any sort of instruction or training - or even any kind of insurance.

So, the law came into effect yesterday, the 1st July, making it compulsorary for the under 18's to now have lessons, free if they are still at school and then pass a written test on the 'rules of the road' before they will be allowed out onto the crowded roads to 'try their luck'. So far, a mere 442,000 have gained the 'mini-licence' - leaving many hundreds of thousands riding around illegally at the moment.

The motoring organisations here have complained on behalf of their teenage membership that the government haven't allowed sufficient time for the youngsters to take the proscribed lessons and then sit their tests to allow them to legally take to the roads and thereby avoid the possible fine of €516 and sequestration of the moped for two months. Transport Minister Pietro Lunardo has resisted the pleas to postpone the introduction of the new law, but he said this week that he had asked traffic police "not to pursue people so as to avoid accidents." - a very sensible request given the liking by young boys of high speed pursuits involving the police!

Mariolina Moioli, director general of the education ministry further added, "The high figures of road accidents, especially fatal ones, convinced the government to introduce a driving certificate for scooters". It is hoped that the change in the law will go some way to reduce the horrific toll of deaths amongst the 14-29 age group which, despite road deaths as a whole in Italy reducing steadily over the last 20 years, has remained at a very high rate.

Certainly, as one travels around in Italy it is common to find those very sad shrines to recently killed young people on street lamps and signs telling the story of yet another young life lost to the ubiquitous 'motorini'. It will be a major step forward if the flower sellers lose this particular piece of trade.