Day 70: Road Signs are Guidelines

In keeping with yesterday’s theme of traffic, I’d like to highlight a major principle of Italian driving: road signs are guidelines. I have seen more road signs here then in any country I’ve ever lived in. A few months ago, Drew and I went away for the weekend, and when we came home, there were all of these extra signs in our neighborhood:

First, there was this one, which implores us to pay attention:

pay attention
pay attention

Then, right after that one, there’s a sign that shows you that there will be a speed bump in 50 meters:

speed hump in 50 meters
speed hump in 50 meters

The third sign in this chain of events is one that tells you “quick, the road is narrowing and there’s a speed bump, so slow down”:

road narrows - speed 20 kph
road narrows – speed 20 kph

Mind you, this speed bump has only existed for about 2 months. I still remember being stopped in traffic as the crew installed it, hoping to inspire more alert driving around the corner. As much as “they” (whoever “they” are) want to believe that these signs and this random and very annoying speed bump will make a difference, “they” are mistaken. What we all do instead is drive in between 60-80 km per hour, honk or flash the lights as we round the corners, and slow down just in time for the speed bump. Any other strategy is just following the rules too much, something that is simply not done here.

get over! on the autostrada
get over! on the autostrada

For the entire time that I’ve lived in Vicenza, I’ve driven one stretch of autostrade with great wonder. You can find this stretch on the A4, running just after entering on Vicenza Ovest. There are all kinds of signs, starting with a flashing triangle showing that men are at work in 1700 meters… 1700 meters later, there are no men at work, but there are blue and white arrow signs that tell you to get over, then the road curves slightly to the right. Then the signs keep signaling a speed limit change, which is supposed to inspire us to drive 60 km per hour inside the solid yellow lines. At first, I tried to follow suit, especially since I figured if the speed limit was going down, then I should obey this rule. It only took me once to realize that there are no men working there, ever. They just began construction of some kind and for whatever reason, it’s stuck, potentially because of lack of funding, but who knows? So in this very defined and overdramatized segment, I’ve learned that driving minimum 120kmph and passing despite the solid yellow line is not only acceptable, but expected, especially if you’re going too slow for the guy behind you!

Remember this one rule while you’re driving here, and you will be conscious of potential driving hiccups, but not so rigid that you’re doing 60 on the autostrade when there really are no men at work, and won’t be for the foreseeable future: road signs are guidelines.

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