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Italian Roadways

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This is the Savvy Traveler, I'm Rudy Maxa. Last April, I mentioned that I'd figured out why Italians - southern Italians in particular - have such a huge love of life. It's because with the way they drive, their lives can end at any moment. That observation was a result of a visit to Naples, where a cab driver was puzzled AND offended when I fastened my seat belt. Turns out that was junior varsity stuff. I spent last week driving along the Amalfi Coast, where the narrow, twisting coastal road often forces you to throw your car into reverse at switchbacks when a bus or truck is coming against you. Seat belts, motorcycle helmets, restrictions against passing on uphill curves . . . those things don't exist along the Amalfi Coast. So I was surprised to learn that it's illegal in Italy to drive while holding your cell phone to your ear. That's something still not banned in the U.S., though I think it ought to be. More than once I've gabbed away while driving, only to discover that I'd basically zoned out while talking. My car might as well have been on auto pilot.

I never thought Italy would be ahead of us when it comes to the rules of driving safely. But in this case, it's Italy one, the U.S. zero. Now . . . if the Italians could just keep their free hand on the wheel instead of using it to gesture so broadly while talking to passengers, I'd feel a whole lot better sharing their roads.


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