Italy could join other European countries to impose a "zero limits" law for younger drivers.

Italian Health Minister Maurizio Sacconi recently proposed legislation that would make it illegal for newly licensed drivers, as well as those younger than 21, to have any alcohol in their blood system when they are behind the wheel. The changes also would extend to drivers who operate various means of public transportation.

It could take several months for Italy’s parliament to act on the proposal, a ministry spokesman said Wednesday.

If passed, the law would affect about 500 active-duty sailors younger than 21 stationed at U.S. Navy bases in Naples and Sigonella.

Currently, Italy’s legal blood-alcohol level for driving is 0.5 grams per liter, or .05, the same as in France, Germany and Spain; but lower than the 0.08 BAC limit in the United Kingdom.

Military personnel and their families stationed in Italy must abide by host nation laws.

"If the Italian government passes the law, then our 21-and-under crowd will need to comply, and we’ll advise them as such," said Steven Kalnasy, the traffic safety program manager for Navy Region Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia.

"Our personnel are expected to comply with host nation rules and regulations," Navy regional spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Wendy Snyder echoed. "So no matter what the Italian law for BAC is, [be it] .05 or .00, our personnel are expected to know what the limit is and take those regulations seriously."

While Italian officials have only proposed the change, Germany enacted a similar law in August 2007. That law extends to American drivers both on and off U.S. bases in Germany.

U.S. Navy officials already push zero tolerance for troops, from efforts to reward designated drivers to the Tipsy Taxi program in Naples, where sailors can call a number and arrange for a free taxi ride to one of the two bases.

"Our message to our troops is that we have a zero tolerance for drinking and driving," Snyder said. "It’s not about the legal limit or ‘how much.’ Don’t do it. Period. Now, we’re not saying our personnel cannot drink, we just want our personnel to be responsible."

Among Italian leaders, the continued escalation of alcohol-related traffic fatalities — many of which involve young drivers at the wheel — prompted Sacconi to call for zero tolerance measures for the at-risk groups.

Of the traffic accidents in Italy caused by drivers under the influence, 68 percent are caused by drunken driving and 29 percent are associated with the use of drugs or other substances, according to the ministry’s Web site.

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