Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Is it safer to drive in Italy or Canada?

A trip to Italy resulted in a great driving adventure.  The very kind rental agent provided these encouraging words of advice as we picked up a car in Venice: “Make sure they give you the signed vehicle inspection when you return the car.”  A quick scan of other cars suggested I was about to enter the world of bumper cars.  Dangling mirrors, strategic dents, and colourful paint additions.  I soon learned that the white lines on the road had little significance to the majority of drivers. In fact, for some, driving with both feet in the car wasn’t even a requirement.  We always say to engage the brain before the feet, though I don’t think that constitutes leisurely dangling one foot out of the driver’s side window.
But for all of the chaos I was surprised to learn that Italy’s driving safety statistics parallel Canada’s.  In Canada, there are 89 fatalities per 10 billion driven kilometers.  In Ontario this number is 60 and Italy being comparable at 64.  When I first discovered this I was a little shocked. It’s hard to believe we as a country are at par with people who straddle the road lines and use the windowpane as a footrest. The gold standard is set by the UK at 44, Sweden at 46 and the Netherlands at 47.  The dented cars in Italy must be a reflection of the insurance industry, not the number of incidents.

The experience reminded me of the importance of adapting to the driving world.  While most of our driving was under clear skies and a searing 35 degrees, there were still many adjustments that had to be made to successfully manage the Italian roads.  As we move into the Fall, you might want to consider these adjustments to your driving:
  1. Scanning: the lower sun on the horizon creates more glare - keep the sunglasses close by.
  2. Predicting: road surfaces can change more rapidly, particularly with very cold nights and with leaves on the road.  We tend to be more complacent close to home - a little more concentration at the beginning and end of your drive will ensure safe arrival.