Friday, August 06, 2004

What I learned in my drivers' class today (Friday)

I already knew that Sicilians drive "differently" from us. It's a matter of getting into the rhythm and driving like them (but not as badly). And that is pretty much what our instructor told us in 5 hours of class today. While we did cover the official rules of the road, he also said what to ignore and what "the real truth" was.

Sigonella Naval Base has the worst driving record of all the military installations in Europe, and it's not even very big (about 4000 drivers?). Last year, there were 751 accidents involving Americans. This year, they are ahead of that record with 370 this year already! If things don't improve immediately, the "Skipper" (i.e. the commander) has threatened a "Cinderella Liberty" for all lower enlisted sailors. That would mean a midnight curfew for ALL of them every day. Anyway, 90% of the accidents involve drivers 25 years old or younger. This has caused a 300% increase in insurance costs for ALL of us this year. Bummer. I know mine will be about $150/month.

Did you know that if you hit and kill a sheep in Sicily, you will be fined 100 Euros? If the sheep is pregnant (which they always are), it's 200. Worse, you'll be fined 500 Euros for mowing down an orange tree and 700 for an olive tree! If you get mad and curse a caribinieri (policeman), you'll get a 500 Euro fine, too.

Things that make Sicilian driving interesting and different are confusing or non-existant signs, intersections with no visibility, terrible roads, narrow roads (mirrors get torn off), Mt. Etna junk on windshields, lanes that just end randomly, no lines painted on the pavement, yielding customs which vary from town to town, drivers that tailgate, passing in the middle of the road (you should edge over to the side), roads that incline up to 20%, motorbikes and scooters that follow no laws, and stoplights and signs that are optional. In addition, ambulance drivers are just that--drivers; they don't have any medical training. They can just pick you up and take you somewhere or pronounce you dead--it's their call.


At August 06, 2004 10:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A delightful read!! I had always heard that the drivers got wilder the farther south one goes in Italy. I'm glad you and Shana made it safely to Sigonella & that you are getting the training to be a wild driver too. I can just see you zipping up & down the Sicilian hills in your little black & white Mini. Look out--here she comes!! I'm sure you will give them a "run for their money." Don't make contact with any pregnant sheep, and by all means, don't curse the cops. I enjoyed your blog immensely. Sandra

At August 11, 2004 2:59 PM, Blogger Deepak said...

Nice blog you have here.

Well your description of the driving in Sicily seems a lot like India!! I bet you would have absolutely no problems driving in India!!


At August 22, 2005 9:16 PM, Blogger bubbles said...

Yes here I am again. =)

Reading about driving in Sicily reminds me of a movie about Italy I've seen a couple of months ago - it was called 'Under Tuscan Sun' and starred Diane Lane.

When Lane's character goes to live in Tuscany she gets to meet the nice and bad sides of the Italian way of life. One of the nicer, funnier anecdotes is told by a good looking ragazzo named Marcello (played by the drooltastic Raoul Bova, who can also be seen in 'Alien vs Predator' and the latest Bacardi commercial).
He tells Lane's character, whose name I have forgotten, that traffic light in Italy do have a meaning:

(mind you this is not an exact quote)

"Green means 'avanti, avanti!', orange is just decoration and red's a compromise" :D



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