traffic ticket in Italy

I travelled to Italy in September of 2008. I just, today March 23, 2009, received a speeding ticket from a Municipality in Italy, San Leo. As best I can determine from the infraction notice, it is for speeding "not in exce4ss of 10 km over the speed limit. It says I should pay 63 Euro for the infraction. My question is: should I pay it? What is the impact if I don't pay it. Or should I file an appeal. That is noted in the notice of infraction.

Thank you

Stephan Jilk

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10888 posts

Just scan down and you will find plenty of discussion on this subject. You may have to pay it.

Posted by Neil
Lake Forest Park, WA, USA
364 posts

Kent, I would submit there's a fine but distinct line between advice on avoiding European law enforcement and supplying information on the effect of not paying fines. For example, if I received a single Italian speeding ticket I would pay it. I don't know if enforcement of speeding tickets is any different from enforcement of Florence ZTL tickets which is the only type of infraction for which I have experience. However, I think if people state, "I didn't pay a similar ticket and nothing happened to me," that is not the same as, "Here's how you get away with not paying...you just do (XYZ)." The act of not paying (inaction, simply put) does not require subterfuge or results from clever internet-obtained advice. I would hope that the Helpline moderators are not suggesting that the simple reporting of personal experiences in some way smells like "advice on avoiding European law enforcement" as this information is obtainable in much greater detail on other forums. Otherwise, we would be asked to accept the notion that we know big secrets that we can't reveal to each other. In the specific case of the Florence ZTLs, such muzzling of information is meant to protect....whom? A bureacracy who furiously writes tickets as if this act is going to cure cancer but is too lazy and inefficient to send them out in a timely manner or set up a halfway decent collection system?

I'm just askin'.

Posted by Neil
Lake Forest Park, WA, USA
364 posts

Kent, a "suitable amount of time" is indefinite but perhaps I qualify.

I was in Florence June 07. Received collection notice for two ZTL tickets (two minutes apart) February 08. Received second collection notice (also regular mail) September 08. Have heard nothing since. Current elapsed time 1 year, 9 months since the infractions.

Posted by Clinton
Yaounde
2 posts

Here is my problem with this system: I received more than $600 in penalties WITHOUT KNOWING that I had done anything wrong. IF the goal is to reduce traffic in the city center (something I support wholeheartedly), the system should be set up to keep people out. Instead, the system is set up to hand out multiple fines. I have found many many posters on different sites who (like me) received REPEAT fines for the SAME infractions. This means the current system is FAILING if your goal is to reduce traffic (because many of us ended up driving through) but SUCCEEDING if your goal is to raise fines. As a tourist, my goal is to respect local customs/rules and avoid shelling out big bucks unnecessarily. Despite my best intentions, this system helped me do neither. I broke the local customs (unwittingly) and am being pressed to shell out more than $600. I hope Florence will take the time to review this system to help it achieve the goal of sustainable, tourist-friendly tourism.

Posted by Cate
Tacoma, WA, USA
667 posts

Ugh, I really hate adding to this debate, but I recently saw an article where Germany's cameras are under question for accuracy, and the problem in Germany isn't anything like what the tourists experience in Italy. Although I am pretty sure we avoided the dreaded city center issue in Italy (not in bigger towns), I am afraid that I might have sped from time to time on the Autostrada while passing (the only way to keep up in the fast lane was to drive way too fast.)

I agree that I think it is more of a revenue issue than anything.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10888 posts

Just remember anyone who advises you to do nothing, does not have a dog in the fight. There is no risk to them to give that advice. There is no definite answer as this is a relatively new situation. With the power of the internet and computers, it is easy to enforce these things. Last year I received notice of a 23 year old tax delinquency from the state of Indiana.

Posted by Neil
Lake Forest Park, WA, USA
364 posts

Well, Frank, even though I may not advise someone to not pay their fines, I can state that I have not paid my fines and I do not intend to pay them and so far I've received nothing but totally ineffective and laughingly tardy dunning letters. At least opinion-wise, I'm putting my money where my mouth is, so to speak. So folks can review this information and make up their own minds. With all due respect, I think the Indiana State Department of Revenue is more on the ball than the various despotic Italian local governments.
I'm just sayin'.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11280 posts

I think that €63 ($82) for less than 6 mph over the speed limit is outrageous. I'll bet they don't fine the locals like that. There was probably a big sign, in Italian, warning of the speeding ticket scam. Funny how they can't put up the warning signs (like for the no drive zones in Florence) in English, but they have no problem sending you the ticket notice in English.

It appears that the country that for years has winked at all the criminal activity (pickpockets, taxi scams, etc) to take money from the American tourist has now decided to join in. I'll never go to Italy.

It's also yet another reason not to rent a car in Europe.

Posted by Bob
Bristol, UK
279 posts

"I'll bet they don't fine the locals like that."

You were doubtless driving a car with Italian license plates, so to the person checking the film you looked just like a local. When it was discovered that the person driving lived in the U.S., the authorities had the courtesy to send you a notice written in English.

Do American authorities show the same courtesy to overseas drivers? Do they post signs warning of all the practices that are offences in the U.S., but not illegal in other countries?

What makes you think that the majority of drivers fined for speeding, or for entering a pedestrian zone, are not residents of the country where the offence occurred?

Posted by Linda
Petaluma, Northern California
345 posts

New Travelers: ZTLs in Florence and everywhere in Italy are not a secret, they are not a trick. They are well documented, well marked. ZTLs are widely used throughout Italy. You will find them in cities, towns, and even small villages. EXPECT THEM EVERYWHERE. It is their way of life, not an obsure secret or scam. If you rent a car, it's your responsibility to know about them.

It's one thing to make a mistake, that's almost inevitable. Budget for them. It's quite another to rent a car in Italy and have no idea what a ZTL is, how to read traffic signs, or cluelessly drive into Florence. Those are major boo boos well within your control. Nontheless, we've all made big mistakes, it happens. But, blaming the Italian government for not fencing off Florence from silly tourists or posting signs in English #@!!! ....um, well..wow. Amazing. I'm still soaking that in... Maybe you've somehow missed some of Rick's travel philosophy...

Let me just advise new travelers, that "No, Florence will not be fenced off to save you from yourself. Since ZTLS are all over Italy, they expect you to know what they are, understand they are vital and necessary, and honor them." And, "No, Italian traffic signs will not be English." I can only hope if that last one was necessary, you may wish to take the excellent advice offered above and cut Italy out of your European itinerary.

Posted by Linda
Petaluma, Northern California
345 posts

I really didn't want to bring this back to the top again.....But, the folks who got tickets in Pisa keep rolling into the board...

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17792 posts

Linda,

You've articulated my thoughts on the subject well! European drivers who rent cars here are expected to follow our traffic laws, so it stands to reason that we should follow theirs. As the old saying goes "ignorance of the law is no excuse".

I'm sure there are lots of Italian (and other European drivers) who get nicked in the ZTL's, we just don't hear about them.

Cheers!

Posted by Mark
Berlin, Germany
319 posts

Ken,

I'm sure there are lots of Italian (and other European drivers) who get nicked in the ZTL's, we just don't hear about them.

Every ZTL I've seen was clearly marked with the standard (according to the "Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals") European no-entry sign and an explanation of the exceptions in Italian and/or standard pictographs. So there are of course European drivers who knowingly disregarded the signage, but they're under no illusion that this is some "scam" or "trick": they saw a no-entry sign, they drove in regardless, they've got a fine. If you're driving in a foreign country it is your duty to know the basic traffic rules and the signage. And "learning by doing" is the wrong approach to traffic signs ("So, that sign meant 'yield to school children'? Sorry!").

Posted by Debra
San Francisco, CA, USA
2 posts

I was in Florence in July '08 and received 2 ZTL tickets a few hours apart (going to/from a pay parking lot).

It's admittedly my fault, but doesn't make paying the exorbitant fines any easier. I'm still debating whether or not to send off the $300+ Euros for my costly mistake.

I have received 2 notices - the first by regular mail; the second was registered.

Has anyone received further communication beyond the first two letters, or had a similar incident reported to any of the credit bureaus?

I'm in search of facts only please. Thank you!

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
6808 posts

Ok, Debra, ya want da facts & only da facts (sounds like you're not going to pay):

1) A website that appears to be encouraging tourism to Florence, but which also appears to be interested in factual information, has said this:

"Your action or lack of action [payment or non-payment] might take account of whether or not you live in the EU and how much you fear a negative credit rating in the USA. (italics added by me). We have seen no evidence to date that true debt collection agencies are being used to collect these fines."

2) Ok, #2, many people are reluctant to get on a public internet forum and say they've received traffic tickets and didn't pay the darn things. In the last couple of years (that Florence ZTL violations have been actively discussed here) we've had exactly one person get on here and state 3 things: he received Florence ZTL violations, hasn't paid em, and (he says) there have been no negative repercussions so far.

So, we don't have a lot of, uh, actual facts to go on--about what happens if you don't pay. Most people posting here, if they say one way or the other, say they intend to pay.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

It would seem that the car rental companies could add the cost of a traffic or parking ticket to your credit card. But they don't. I got a parking ticket in Hawaii a couple of years ago while driving a rental car. I didn't pay it and nothing happened.

Posted by Emily
Houston, TX, USA
47 posts

I got charged for a violation last year by Budget for a car rented in New York.

I was in a funeral cortege, did not know where I was or where I was going, so I followed the car in front of me thru a red light.

Budget charged me both for the infraction and a 'service fee'. The additional fee was astronomical. I called Budget and said I would be more willing to pay the fee if I thought that the clerk who took the 30 seconds to send the letter got the money.

They removed the fee, but I did pay for the ticket.

Em

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

There are consequences for violating the law. If you broke the law and know you’re at fault, why wouldn’t you just pay the fine? Isn’t that the honorable thing to do? If you’re not sure or believe yourself to be innocent of the charge, why wouldn’t you simply follow the appeals process and/or consult an attorney where the alleged infraction occurred?

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3410 posts

Michael of Des Moines: I so agree with you. I have wanted to say the same thing but desisted because one poster above asked for "the facts only, please", I presume to avoid having to read words like honour and integrity.

Posted by Scott M.
Dallas, TX, USA
1166 posts

Hertz is a bad one to deal with regarding traffic tickets. Not only will they charge your card for the ticket, but they will also charge you a fee for turning you in to the local police.

If you were legitimately speeding or had another similar "reasonable" traffic fine, then I would say suck it up and pay it. However, with the ZTLs, particularly in Florence, I believe that it is organized crime sanctioned by the government. I drove in Bologna, and looking at the map, clearly the center of the city is ONE big ZTL, which if one were to drive into it by mistake you would only receive one fine. However the ZTL in Florence consists of 5 interconnected zones (why not just one?), and you get an initial fine for entering the zone and a fine for entering any of the other 4 zones that you might wander into on your way out. You don't know when you have passed from one zone to another and each zone you enter into will garner you another fine. This is such a blatant tourist trap! I personally wouldn't pay a ZTL fine from Florence just for that reason.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3410 posts

Have you people read and understood the post by Michael of Des Moines? Can you in all honesty find a good and intelligent argument against his reasoning? If so, I'd like to hear it instead of all this self-serving nonsense about corruption and scams and tourist traps.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

I understand the angst over the ZTL configuration in Florence and ZTLs in Italy in general. However, US citizens have no voice in Italian law and shouldn’t have. You’re a guest in a foreign country, and you are obligated to adhere to the local driving laws and regulations. And, it’s your responsibility to understand the law regardless of where you are. US tourists can and do have opinions regarding the system: outrageous, unfair, scam, crime, money-maker, whatever. Frankly, it doesn’t matter what any of us think. I suppose one could exercise their protest by intentionally avoiding Italy because of this issue, but I suspect even those who say they’ll do this will end up visiting the country in the end. Another, perhaps more practical, option is to simply avoid driving and use public transportation instead. BTW, I’m not interested in starting another debate or droning on about driving versus rail…I use both. Again, if you knowingly violated the law, you should do the honorable thing and pay the fine. If you’re confused, unsure, or believe yourself to be innocent, follow the established appeals process and/or consult a lawyer in Italy. Simply not paying in protest doesn’t seem like an upright thing to do.

Posted by Neil
Lake Forest Park, WA, USA
364 posts

Not paying the fine, if one feels the basis is corrupt, is another acceptable form of protest. There's nothing inherently "upright" about allowing corrupt systems to prosper. Is this not a major factor that caused our country to be created?

(Not applicable to our Canadian friends.)

Not trying to argue, just proposing an alternate and entirely legitimate view.

Posted by Scott M.
Dallas, TX, USA
1166 posts

Receiving a fine a year (or more) after the fact makes it difficult to defend as recollections can be fuzzy after that length of time. Has anyone actually tried to protest the fine in an Italian court? Probably not, because of the distance, language, cost, and logistics of doing so. The authorities there know this and are therefore more than willing to "sock it to you" for all that they can get. I'm not against paying fines when they are reasonable, but the Florence ZTL is clearly a money making scheme for the local government.

Posted by Norm
Ottawa, Canada
4555 posts

Neil..."Is this (a corrupt system) not a major factor that caused our country to be created?" Well, not really...it was supposed to be the lack of representation in a Parliament that was levying taxes on its American colonial citizens. But all of that is besides the point....you're not IN the United States when you're caught by a ZTL. I hardly think that you or anyone else, can back up these wild claims about it being a "corrupt" system....it's simply another justification for refusing to take responsibility for one's own actions.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

Indeed, the restricted traffic zones in Italy are both a means to decrease auto traffic and increase revenues. And all over the US, red light and speed cameras raise a lot of money for local governments. As a citizen of this country, ignoring a ticket received in the mail will eventually earn you an arrest warrant. As has been pointed out, ignoring a similar ticket received from Italian authorities and any subsequent follow-up attempt to collect may result in no further action whatsoever. However, does the likelihood of no further consequence, coupled with a distaste for the ZTL system’s penalties, make it okay to ignore a fine for a law that you broke? There are legal, proper, and acceptable processes to appeal or otherwise respond to a complaint. I don’t know, perhaps it comes down to an individual moral question of right and wrong. And, you’re right…it is fair to present all sides of the issue. Still, as it relates to one’s obligation as a guest in a foreign country, we are all required to know and adhere to local law…period. That’s what the State Department says anyway.

As travelers, we put so much time and effort into planning that it surprises me so little is spent researching local traffic laws and regulations when decisions about driving are being made. The internet is loaded with information about the ZTL system is Italy…there really shouldn’t be many surprises.

It’s been a good debate, and differing points of view help make the world an interesting place. My last (and fun) thought on this is that if you don’t like the drug laws and penalties in Turkey, don’t duct tape any hash to your midsection on your way out.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

With all due respect, the corruption citation is a red herring, and it takes us away from the real matter at hand. Nevertheless, corruption had nothing to do with the founding of our country. The causes of the war were complex, but the leading issues were taxes, lack of representation, and forcing the American Colonies to pay for the French and Indian War and the costs associated with governing the newly-acquired territories. The colonists were English, of course, but lacked the same fundamental rights as Englishmen in London. I’m sure I’m not telling anyone anything they didn’t learn in grade school or from watching School House Rock on Saturday mornings. It’s true that laws can be immoral, unfair, unjust, or even evil (Jim Crow in the South is a good example). Thoreau and King taught us that civil disobedience on behalf of the citizenry can change such injustice. But we’re not talking about some grand, prejudiced system in the US. We’re talking about the obligation of guests in a foreign country to know and follow the law. Italian citizens have a right to challenge and change Italian laws they find unfair or unjust. American tourists have no such right, and, in my opinion, have no legitimate standing when protesting an Italian law they might view as corrupt or unfair by ignoring a ticket received as a result of breaking Italian law.

Posted by Neil
Lake Forest Park, WA, USA
364 posts

I suppose what it boils down to is this: is the ZTL system an attempt to limit traffic or a way to make fairly easy money? I suppose it's both. As Norm has stated earlier in a different thread, "they probably don't do enough to educate visitors about the issue." And this is understandable, golden egg-laying geese are valuable. Bruce from Florence also had this to say: "The Italians and their love of anything easy have latched on to the computer, speed cameras, ZTL's etc and are even tougher on their own citizens than they are foreigners. I just got a speeding ticket from Pisa yesterday and I will pay it BUT I will say my 'friend' was driving the car because I don't need any connection to the crime other than being the cars registered owner, all they want is the money so they can continue to pay their no-show family job salaries."

So while I would pay any citation issued in this country, it's only because of the consequences if I didn't. In my city we have camera enforcement that is blatantly there to make money, not to increase safety. Everyone knows it, and they endeavor to not get citations.

So...we have a series of people ambling through this forum saying, "I got a letter from a collection agency saying I should pay $300 for two ZTL tickets I received two minutes apart about six months ago. Seems unfair and my hotel is unhelpful. Should I pay it?" For those predisposed to pay up because of their high moral character, I suppose they don't really need to ask the question but the "Oh yeah, you should pay" responses make them feel better about making the payment. For those who are really asking, "This seems very unfair and I'd rather not pay...what happens if I don't?", then those people deserve to hear both answers provided which are, (1) It doesn't matter if you don't want to pay, you simply should because it's the right thing to do, or (2) Nothing will happen.

Some people don't like others hearing the second answer, but there you have it anyway.

Posted by Norm
Ottawa, Canada
4555 posts

Neil...nice of you to accuse the Italian governments that set up ZTLs of doing it only for narrow financial reasons, without any proof except comments from those who have been caught. If you've ever seen the traffic in and around Florence, you should know that halting that flow into the city center can be easily justified, especially with the damage pollution has been causing to older buildings and monuments around the world.
I feel sorry for anyone who will only "pay the penalty" because they're afraid of the punishment, rather than admitting they should take responsibility for their own actions.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3410 posts

Michael is right about the time and effort most put into researching all kinds of stuff before they travel. Will the hotel room have a queen size bed? Will my hair dryer work in Paris? Can I find a vegetarian restaurant in Vienna? Can I park my car near the Tour Eiffel? How can I make sure I get an automatic gear shift rental car? Do I need a GPS?

NEVER does anyone ask : Where can I find out about traffic laws and the highway laws so I won't get a ticket? NEVER NEVER.

Posted by Debra
San Francisco, CA, USA
2 posts

Kent, thank you very much for directly addressing my questions...much appreciated.

I had already read the Bella Toscana website, but there is some speculation even there. I was hoping for more personal and relevant experiences, but I concur that people who don't pay aren't readily advertising that fact (especially not with the self-appointed high court morality justices on this site).

Norma/Michael, entering the ZTL was not pre-meditated, so you can set your troubled minds at ease and your gavels down.

Our guidebook addressed the general problem of navigating a car in major cities, but did not mention the ZTLs, so I had no knowledge of them, nor do I speak/read/write Italian.

Also, my statement in my original posting is a little misleading. It would have been more apt to say that I suspect the tickets were when we entered/left a pay parking lot based on the timing of the tickets, and the fact that I can fairly ascertain we were in Florence that day.

Thus, it's difficult to establish innocence for an infraction over a year old and since it is quite possible that I entered the ZTL, "I'm not sure" doesn't translate to a legal plea in any language.

Regardless, ignorance is an insufficient defense for breaking the law. In fact, the citation actually states not to appeal based on ignorance...so there's your answer for why I don't appeal.

However, I also agree that not paying an infraction is a valid form of protest.

After unwittingly entering the ZTL, I was also forced to unwittingly leave it. Without going into my personal beliefs as to when a fine becomes lucrative instead of punitive, I will say that I wouldn't even be on this discussion board if I'd received only 1 ticket and had established that I was in Florence in a rental car that day.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

I’m convinced there was no willful intent on your part…that really wouldn’t make any sense. However, you apparently didn’t take the time to conduct adequate pre-trip research regarding traffic laws and ordinances specific to Italy, even though you planned on renting an auto for transport into and back out of the city of Florence. Correct? You also seem to have either missed or completely disregarded the no-entry signage and continued on your way without a permit in violation of local law. Right? There were two infractions caught on film, and you received two citations. And, you admit that you were most likely at fault. The facts are quite simple, really. To me, it’s less a matter of some high virtue or divine morality and more a matter of taking responsibility for your actions and doing the right thing. If you can justify the lack of accountability on your part because you disagree with the ZTL configuration scheme, don’t care for the penalties imposed, and believe yourself to be beyond the reach of enforcement, that’s your business. You asked for the facts, and here they are in front of you.

Posted by Peter
Brooklyn, New York, USA
2 posts

I know this is an old post but I thought there still might be someone with some insight on the matter. I'm not looking for a lesson in morals nor am I shrugging responsibility. I received 3 ZTL violations in Florence and I want to know if I have any recourse in challenging them. I speak italian and I should have known better but it was my first time driving in Italy and I was hit with hefty fines driving in an area reserved for public transportation and for driving in a limited traffic zone. I want to know the repecussions if I don't pay and if possible, info about fighting and possibly getting the fines reduced or dismissed. If you are going to lecture me about why I should know better please hold your comments. I'm looking for help and opinioned posts often take thread on a tangent. Thanks, Pete

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17792 posts

Peter, Although this IS an old post, I'll reply here rather than PM as the comments may be useful for others. Based on comments I've seen here, it's usually too late to intervene as the tickets are typically not delivered to offenders for a period of 6 months or longer. I really doubt that arguments would change the situation, since the ZTL areas are enforced by automated Cameras and they may even have your image shown in the photos. Therefore it's virtually impossible to argue that you didn't commit the offense. In terms of paying the tickets, I suspect that authorities are becoming much more aggressive with collection, given the current economic situation in Italy. One poster reported here not too long ago that authorities in Italy had hired a U.S.-based collection agency, and by the time he paid the bill, it was over $500. You have nothing to lose by trying to dispute the charges, but IMHO your chances of success are "minimal" at best. Good luck!

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2394 posts

I agree with Ken - there isn't any grounds for disputing the fines. You know you violated the ZTL, even if it was on accident. An appeal might be successful on sympathy alone, but since you can't appear in person, not sure how successful that will be. But you can always try. No one here can tell you not to pay, that violates our rules. But Ken is also right that a poster on a similar thread noted he/she got a large bill from a collection agency.