Those fond of life in the fast lane in Italy might want to ease up on the accelerator a bit.

Not only is gasoline more expensive these days, but also a new set of Italian fines for speeding has gone into effect, and some Americans have already had their wallets emptied.

In a few cases, Americans who couldn’t pay their fines on the spot — as the law requires — had their vehicles impounded until they could pay.

“It’s happened,” said Gianni Vignaduzzi, operations liaison officer for the 31st Security Forces Squadron.

The changes were introduced late last year and went into effect recently. They also include higher penalties for talking on a cell phone while driving and for drinking and driving.

Those caught going 1 to 10 kilometers per hour over the posted speed limits now face fines ranging from 36 to 148 euros ($57 to $236). The fines steadily increase with the speed, with those clocked at 41 kph too fast facing fines of up to 1,458 euros, ($2,328) restricted driving hours and a suspended driving license, according to a post on the Aviano Air Base’s Web site (

Vignaduzzi pointed out that such infractions are more likely on local roads — where posted limits are often 50 or 60 kph — and local residents routinely drive much faster.

“Most of the tickets, probably about 80 percent, are from local roads,” he said.

That’s not always the case, though. According to the online posting, a member of the 555th Fighter Squadron received a 370-euro fine for going 179 kph on an autostrada, which has a maximum speed of 130 kph. A member of the 31st Medical Operations Squadron was caught at speeds in excess of 170 kph going back and forth on a trip on an autostrada.

Vignaduzzi said Italian police have a number of ways of catching speeders, some of which are almost invisible even to those looking out for monitoring. Methods include policemen standing on the roadside with radar guns, roadside automatic cameras that take pictures of speeding cars’ license plates, and authorities in vehicles — sometimes not marked as police cars — with radar guns.

Those stopped by the police are supposed to pay their fines immediately. Vignaduzzi said that many local police will follow violators to a nearby ATM to allow them to get money to pay the fine. But if they’re still not able to do so, police will take the car and hold it — adding fees for storage and transportation — until the fine is paid.

Those caught talking on the phone while driving now face a fine of 148 euros and a suspended license if they’re caught doing it again within two years. Those caught with blood-alcohol levels of 0.5 now face a license suspension and fines of as much as 2,000 euros. Those with levels of 1.5 and above could be fined as much as 6,000 euros and sentenced to a year of community service.

By comparison, fines for speeding are much cheaper for Italy’s neighbors to the north. For example, the fine for going 10 kilometers over the speed limit in Germany is 15 euros.

Don't get caught

There are Web sites that can help motorists in Italy avoid getting caught by traffic cameras or find out more about local laws. Most information is in Italian.

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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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