Thu, Jul 31, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Europe's road warriors lose their license to kill

THE GUARDIAN , ROME AND PARIS

After decades of dicing with death, the reckless Latin roadhog could be doomed to extinction.

In Italy, as in France, draconian measures introduced in the past couple of months have slashed the death rate and persuaded some of the world's most naturally anarchic drivers to buckle up, slow down and, just occasionally, wait their turn.

The Italian senate was expected to give definitive approval yesterday to a set of provisional measures which have cut the weekend carnage by 35 per cent since they came into effect. Figures released earlier this month suggested that the overall drop was substantially higher.

In France, a new law passed in June increased the maximum penalties for driving offenses and introduced three-year probationer licenses for new drivers with only half the number of points carried by full licenses. On French licenses points are deducted, from a total of 12 on full licenses, for offenses.

It was the latest in a series of initiatives encouraged by President Jacques Chirac which have cut road deaths by 18 per cent in the past 12 months.

In Italy too the new rules involve a points-based license. Driving at over 130km not wearing a seatbelt while talking on a mobile phone -- normal cruising mode for many motorists before July 1 -- can now lose the driver most of his or her points at a stroke.

Licenses are withdrawn when there are no points left and the driver must re-sit the test.

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