VICENZA, Italy — Italian motorists face tougher penalties under changes introduced earlier this month.

One of the biggest changes to Italy’s highway and penal codes is that bicyclists will now face the same punishments as those driving a car.

The new bicycle rules mean those cited face substantially higher fines, and points will be charged against their driving records. So it’s possible that bike riders who break the rules could accrue enough points to lose their car-driving privileges.

Many bicyclists in Italy commonly ignore stop signs and other traffic signs and rules. But under Italian law, bicycles are considered vehicles and must be operated in accordance with traffic laws, according to Capt. Daniele Panighello, commander of the SETAF Carabinieri Company on Caserma Ederle.

Other changes include:

¶ Those caught speeding or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. now face fines up to 50 percent higher than fines handed out at other times of the day.

"The statistics say that there are more accidents during those hours for those reasons," Panighello said.

So, instead of facing fines up to 624 euros for driving 10 kilometers above the speed limit during those times, drivers now face fines up to 936 euros. Those driving at least 40 kilometers above the limit during the time frame now face fines of more than 2,100 euros.

¶ Fines for drinking and driving are even stiffer, so someone caught driving at night with a blood-alcohol concentration of .05 faces a fine of 3,000 euros.

Those caught with a BAC of more than .15 during the time frame now face fines of up to 9,000 euros, a year in jail, a two-year suspension of their driver’s license and permanent confiscation of their vehicle.

¶ Those caught with forged insurance papers will lose their cars permanently.

Federico Brigo, the Carabinieri Company’s senior noncommissioned officer, said the measure doesn’t apply to expired insurance. But it does apply to those who have altered expired policies in an effort to make them appear current.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for 40 years.

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