Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Before we left Terni my wife and I made photocopies of our Florida driver's licenses and left them with Giovanni, in the not unlikely event we had picked up some automated speeding fines while driving and riding around to hell and back in Italy, land of the accursed Autovelox.
"It's not the money," Giovanni said, though fines start at one hundred fifty Euros ($225), "It's the points on your driving license." Using our ids he hoped to deflect any eventual fines to his friends visiting from America, thus avoiding payment and points.

Almost all Italy's roads are now labelled as being under electronic surveillance. The law says local governments must give advance notice if they are using speed traps. The local governments in Italy are way too slick according to Giovanni, who likes to ride fast. "It wouldn't be so bad if they put the warning signs where they are supposed to be, before the radar camera, but in this country they put them everywhere so you have no idea where they are or aren't...And the old style gray boxes don't say what speed they are checking for. One just hopes they are turned off if you speed by too fast and in clear view, better to be overtaking at that moment!

Some of the newer Autovelox cameras are brightly colored and located in clear view in the middle of small villages and towns which I find entirely acceptable, as does Giovanni, who has paid a few Autovelox fines in the past few years. These newer machines also display flashing orange lights at night and some municipalities put them under street lights to make sure they are visible.

The actual functioning of the Autovelox is a bit mysterious, because even though they have little windows back and front and on the sides, it seems that the two windows facing the road measure the speed over a fixed distance, triggering the other windows to take a snap of the departing offending license plate.Riding without a tag can lead to permanent confiscation of the motorcycle.

The law says the authorities have 150 days to send out notices of fines but apparently the creaky functioning of Italian bureaucracy can lead to even lengthier delays. Which could be grounds for dismissal if the recipients but knew it. As it is the Autovelox was supposed to lower accidents; Giovanni says no such thing happened, his son the lawyer-in-training disagrees. The fixed radar camera was also supposed to free police and Carabinieri to carry out more DUI and roving vehicle stops but they are hardly in evidence.

The Autovelox and the similar overhead Tutor system on the freeways has actually turned out to be a tool for alienation, as they are seen as fine generating machines with no real role in reducing traffic wrecks. Appeals cost 40 Euros to file with no possibility of being awarded costs even if the citizen wins the case. All I know is they are a total pain in the arse especially as it is a lot of work to stop worrying about getting pulled over from behind by real people, as at home, and instead learning to look for a dinky little sign buried in the bushes by the side of the road. 150 to 90 KPH on a motorcycle in 30 feet is very hard on the testicles. An unintended consequence I'm sure.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Rob said...

Sounds awfully similar to the ongoing battle between California drivers and the cities that use "red light" cameras.

I got a red light camera ticket once, because I turned right on red. Definitely not illegal. I disputed it and it was thrown out so I didn't have to pay the $350 or so fine, but I still had to miss half a day of work and take the time to go court and wait my turn to tell them I didn't break any law.

In my opinion, the red light and speed trap cameras are more of a revenue generator as most accidents are caused by inattentive drivers than speeding.

Danette said...

We have the same thing here with cameras in vans and on intersection poles. I got a ticket for turning left on a yellow... and it was indeed just yellow! And there is supposedly a provision here in Colorado that you are not compelled to pay the ticket unless you are physically served by a sheriff. But trying to find out the legalities of that is hell so rather than risk the possibility of being pulled over and being taken off in handcuffs I will be paying the damn ticket.

Conchscooter said...

Italians hate the things. There was also a scandal tha hundreds of the machines,operated by private companies for local governments were miscalibrated. I hope they dont gain ground here.

Rob said...

The same scandal happened here too. The redlight cameras are leased to the city of SD by some large aerotech company. Some folks went to court with experts and found that they miscalibrated the cameras and thousands of dollars in fines were refunded to citizens. We still have them around town, but they're not as widely used as before.