10 September 2007

Don't look in the mirror!

Driving fast

When I was younger I tended to drive too fast but changed that habit during my sixteen years handling insurance claims. This was for two reasons: financial and experience. I had a company car and excessive moving violations were a reason for losing your car privileges. I also saw first hand the direct results of reckless driving while inspecting damaged vehicles, visiting the injured in hospitals and the families of the deceased while investigating claims. Valerie frequently pointed out that I drove slower than many of the people on the highways who were passing me 10 or more miles over the speed limit.

Here in Italy speed limits and traffic laws appear to be mere suggestions. I have learned to adapt my driving to my surroundings and find the high intensity driving you experience here to be enjoyable at times. But I still find that Italians go too fast. To avoid frustration there are times I ignore my rearview mirror and the car behind me who is impatiently riding my bumper. Trying to follow an Italian in another car can be an adventure in high speed curves.

Their speed in a vehicle is a contrast to so much of the Italian way of life. We have experienced many things that take twice as long or longer than we experienced in the US but not driving speeds. On sidewalks I find myself usually walking faster than the locals. In a car I find myself being passed on curves, at intersections and on hills.

The best explanation I can provide for this Italian desire for speed is related to the fact that Formula 1 and motorcycle racing are big time spectator sports here. Anytime there is a televised race you will find every TV in a bar or restaurant surrounded by people mesmerized by the glow of the screen.

When you take an Italian who has leisurely enjoyed a two hour lunch and put them in a car, watch out as they will drive like they need to make up some of that lunch time getting home for riposo.

So when in Italy remember defensive driving is your safest way to avoid an incidente.


Anonymous said...

You might find it hard to believe but Italians drive much more slowly than they did 40 years ago. I personally think they have always been very good drivers but very quick. The larger cars of today have slowed things somewhat. Also, the autostrada without limits was either fabulous or frightening depending on your tolerance for danger and love of thrill.
For an interesting experience try driving in Naples, there traffic signals are not even considered as advisory but curious and weird decorations the government displays at intersections.

Bryan said...

I think they should put lights on the traffic signs at Christmas...at least they can be a decoration