Italians and Their Cars; No 1 of literally 000,000s

Italians have a weird relationship with their cars; No matter how small a place is, how congested the roads are, how much a threat climate change is, there  isnn’t a place in the world that they won’t take their car with them if they can. Take Rome, for a particularly convenient example. Here is a city with 2.7million people living on top of each other, with huge congestion problems and parkng problems so bad they’re digging underneath historical monuments to build underground car parks. It has very decent transport links during the day (at night it is a very different matter), with buses, trains, trams and tubes taking you all over the city and the surrounding areas. In our part of town there is nothing you can’t get to within walking distance, be it bus stops, a metro station, a train station, supermarkets, shops, bars, restaurants – you name it, we’ve got it. And yet despite all of that, and the fact that you can’t walk these days without finding some sort of threat to Italy’s climate on the immediate horizon, they remain wedded to their four-wheel polutomobiles. Presumably because the wine is good. This, combined with their collective tendancy to drive like maniacs makes Italy’s roads interesting, to say the least. Take a look at the picture I took from my balcony today, for instance.

Creative road use

Creative road use

Now, these cars aren’t waiting for a green light, they’re parked. Parked on a two lane carriageway which frequently sees young men proving just how big their cocks are by racing down it on their motorbikes/scooters/silly little FIAT thingies, straight through the main crossing. So what you do is park you car right in the middle of it. Of course. Or, you do what this little cheeky chappy did;

Thinking outside of the box there Gianni, buono.

Thinking outside of the box there Gianni, buono.

You just slam it onto the pavement. Capito? But more than just being a hilarious manifestation of the Italian tendancy to disregard pretty much any rule there is, this attitude make Rome one of the most dangerous places to live in the world, especially for me. This time last year there were 36 deaths on the roads in a single weekend, with many of them alcohol or drug related. More than eight pedestrians per 1,000 are killed or hurt in Rome every year, a meaning I’m 10 times more likely to be killed by some coke-addled sunglass wearing tosser than in London and 20 times more likely than some haughty Parisian bint addicted to pill sandwiches. The BBC article from which I took most of my facts also has this cheery little anecdote;

The Vatican, criticising what it calls the “collective madness” on Italian roads, issued a document cataloguing “Ten Commandments” for motorists, which boil down to showing respect and compassion for others on the roads, and never failing to stop in case of an accident.

As though a hit and run isn’t enough of a disgusting thing to do without making sure you’re not late for that really important meeting with Claudio down the gelateria. ‘Mi dispiace ragazzi, must dash!’

One of the basic causes of the horrifying slaughter on Italian roads is that there are more cars per inhabitant in Italy than in any other country in Europe – 680 per 1,000 population. In Rome, for example, the figure is even higher – 2.4 million cars for 2.5 million inhabitants.

Apparently the figure could be skewed by the huge number of dignitaries and fat cats with massive car pools at their disposal, but even if you take that into account, and the fact that we don’t know if he hasn’t bothered to check whether the number of cars is just for the city or includes the suburbs (upping the population to four million) or not, that’s still at least one car for every adult, most of who think nothing of rattling around the place pissed out of their heads or coked up to their eyeballs. Or both.

Meanwhile the night time drink driving is exacerbated by the fact that trains and buses simply don’t run late enough, which is a recipe for disaster, especially in the summer when all the nightclubs relocate some 15 miles away at the beach. The roads therefore get jammed up with young people driving while mortal, which wouldn’t be a problem if the police enforced the current limit of 0.5g/l (0.2g/l for bus drivers), but the number of random roadside alcohol tests is piss poor compared to the rest of Europe; the police ran a campaign last year aimed at doubling the number of such tests from the current 500,000 to one million per year, compared with eight million in France. One sixteenth the number of test that France carry out. A country that practically injects wine into babies as they’re slinking their slippery way from their mother’s pudenda.

I could take these statistics and attitudes and talk about how quickly drink driving became something that just is not done in British society, but I can’t be arsed. Steve Coogan says it much more effectively than I can;

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