Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Traffic cameras a common complaint

Thursday, November 17, 2011
My traffic ticket misadventure looks mild today in comparison with what other foreigners have gone through. Yesterday I talked to Rick and Debbie Gerke, who had to pay their Lucca parking ticket twice. After receiving a ticket on their windshield, they went to the post office and paid it. Several months later, they received a bill for the same parking ticket in the mail, but by that time they had tossed the receipt and were back in the states, so they paid again rather than take the time to try to dispute the second bill.

In searching the web, I found that we have joined a large club of foreigners who have been ticketed by camera. A discussion thread on TripAdvisor.com has 243 posts, many from foreigners complaining about getting caught and fined by the ubiquitous cameras. Some are confused because they think that when they pay the car rental agency that they have paid for the traffic violation; then they don’t understand why they get a second bill for a greater amount months later.

A ZTL sign in Pisa
“Citman” from England writes a typical post: “Hi to all fellow victims. We went to Pisa on a short break end of May 2007, booked into hotel in centre of Pisa, asked hotel staff where to hire a car, hired car. Only warning that anyone gave us was to ensure that car was moved from outside hotel by a certain time in the morning. The hire car operator and hotel staff gave no warning of potential traffic violations caused by driving within the city. Last October we received the notification (in Italian) that we had committed three offences and that the hire company had debited our credit card for three separate amounts. Yesterday we received three separate letters from the Municipality of Pisa informing us of three ZTL violations, each carrying a 113 euro fine.

It's not easy for someone who doesn't know Italian traffic
regulations to understand what this means.
But that’s nothing compared to the misfortunates of Brian Appleton of San Jose, California, who reported on a Lifeinitaly.com discussion thread that he received 11 tickets during a two-week trip in the summer of 2007. His fines amounted to well over $1,000, and he was also charged by the car rental agency to report his information, presumably another 11 times. I also read that a Europcar clerk told someone that about one out of every three or four calls they receive concerns complaints about traffic tickets.

A number of the 243 posts on the TripAdvisor discussion argue, rather vociferously, the fairness of the traffico limitato zones, and I can see both sides of the argument. It is a good idea to limit traffic in crowded city centers, and it is often the foreigners who don’t understand the signs and customs, so they get many of the tickets. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. However, some people feel it has spoiled their vacation, that the police and car agencies are in collusion to scam foreigners, and the overall result will hurt tourism, Italy’s largest industry. It also seems that the car rental agencies are making a nice profit charging 36 euros for looking something up in their computers that probably takes about five minutes.

While it may have a small negative effect on tourism, it doesn’t appear that Italy is having problems attracting tourists. And the tickets are huge money makers, surely offsetting any potential loss in tourism money. The Florentine, February 12, 2009, reports: “Traffic police (in Florence) issue approximately . . . 1,253 tickets a day. The fines on these tickets average out to about 140 euro per year, per motorist, and they bring about 52 million to city hall each year.”

Florence and Pisa seem to have the most online complaints, but readers were reporting tickets from all over the country. And it is not just Americans who are nabbed. The Guardian newspaper cites the agency Euro Parking, which reports: “Six out of 10 foreign-registered vehicles don’t cough up. The Germans, it seems, are the worst. There are nearly 30,000 unpaid congestion charge notices against German vehicles, followed by Poland (15,376) Italy (11,846) and Spain (9,493).” It looks like I have joined a very large club, indeed.

Next: To pay or not to pay . . .


  1. Holy moly! No driving in Italy, I guess. Stick to your bicycles. :)

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.


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