Those who visit Italy are often tempted to do as the locals do and rent a scooter to get around, but you'll find that there is more to driving a "motorino" in Italy than just turning the key and taking off. Once you get started, it may seem no one is following the driving laws in Italy, but they do exist, and there are specific laws that drivers of scooters must follow.
International Driver's License/Permit
According to the U.S. Department of State, if you rent a scooter in Italy, you are obligated to have an International Drivers License. You can get an International Drivers License from AAA. You must still carry your home country's driver license as well, and you have to obtain your IDL before you leave your home country. Not all rental businesses will ask for your IDL, but it is required for any out of country driver to carry one in Italy.
Headlights should be used at all times. High beams are prohibited in towns and cities. Most modern scooters will have headlights that turn on and stay on while the scooter is in operation.
The Autostrade, Italy's toll highway system, does not allow scooters with engines under 150cc to travel on it, according to the website of Autostrade per l'italia.
Anyone riding or driving a scooter is required by law to wear a helmet in Italy. This law was expanded in 2000 to include all scooter riders. It previously only affected minors and anyone riding a scooter with an engine more powerful than 125cc. Failure to wear a helmet or buckle it properly can result in fines starting at £19 U.S. dollars (as of 2000).
Limited Traffic Areas
Italy has restricted areas in historical sections of cities to protect historic buildings, cut down on pollution and accommodate increased pedestrian traffic. These areas are marked by a sign consisting of a white square with a red circle in the middle. Restricted areas are not permanent; they change depending upon the hours of the day.
If you cross into a Limited Traffic Area, automated police cameras could take a picture of your number plate and possibly send a ticket to your home.
People residing or staying in the Limited Traffic Area are allowed to drive into it, but visitors must register their vehicle with the local municipal police department.
According to the U.S. Department of State, if a foreigner commits a traffic violation, Italian law obligates them to pay the fine to the officer who writes up the violation. Italian law allows the officer to confiscate the foreigner's vehicle if they cannot pay the fine, regardless of whether the vehicle is a rental.
Left Lane Use
The left lane in Italy is restricted to passing vehicles. If you pass another vehicle, you must use your turn sign until you move back into the right hand lane.
A new law passed in all European Union countries requires drivers to carry an orange safety vest in their vehicle in case of a breakdown. If you rent a scooter, make sure you have one from the rental agency before driving away.
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