Travelling by car with kids: some Italian rules you should know
When going on holiday and visiting new countries travelling by car may be a very good idea, as it tends to be more flexible to the needs of the moment, and allows tourists to stop whenever and wherever they want. However, when travelling with kids, there are some important rules and local provisions families should know, to avoid negative experiences.
Children need to travel in safe conditions, but regulations might change from one country to another.
This is a useful guide for all those who have decided to visit Italy with their kids by car.
Before getting into the car, all required safety measures should be taken into account: first of all, make sure your kids sit on their seggiolone, the child car seat, placed in the rear of the car. The Italian codice stradale, the rules of the road, is implemented on the interity of the national territory, and you should really keep in mind some of its more basic, yet essential rules: article 172 of the Codice stradale Italiano, for instance, takes into account EU directives, and it is specifically addressed to those travelling with children:
"Uso delle cinture di sicurezza e sistemi di ritenuta" 1˚ comma: I bambini di statura inferiore a 1,50 m devono essere assicurati al sedile con un sistema di ritenuta per bambini, adeguato al loro peso, di tipo omologato (...), conformemente ai regolamenti della Commissione economica per l'Europa delle Nazioni Unite o alle equivalenti direttive comunitarie."
This article imposes the use of seatbelts for all children and,if they are shorter than 1, 50 metre (4 feet 9 inches), it makes compulsory the use of adequate safety systems to be applied to the car seats, in order to make them safe for kids, in accordance to their weight and height. The safety system chosen has to be in conformity with the rules of the United Nations' Economic Commission for Europe, or other equivalent EU directives.
Weight then, no longer age - as it used to be - is the parameter dictating which type of safety measure has to be taken when travelling with your kids; the Italian police has simplified things for parents, by creating a handy chart of weight and corresponding safety systems to be used:
-Group 0 (up to 10 kg- 22 lbs)
This group usually includes kids from 0 to 9 months. The seat you should install is that for children from 0 to 13 kg (28.5 lbs) and it must be installed facing backwards, or forward if the child is at least 6 kg (13 lbs).
-Group 0 + (up to 13 kg- 28.5 lbs)
The indications for this group are the same as those of the previous group, but the seat must have a capacity of up to 18 kg (40 lbs), hence ensuring a higher protection for the child's head and legs.
-Group 1 ( from 9 to 18 kilos-from 20 lbs to 40 lbs)
Children from 9 months to 4 or 5 years are usually included in this group. Seats (supporting kids weighing from 9 to 18 kg, or 20 to 40 lbs) must be placed facing forward, and they must be fixed to the car seat with the seatbelt.
-Group 2 ( from 15 to 25 kg- from 33 lbs to 55 lbs)
Children aged 4 to 6 or 7 years are more likely to belong to this group. The seat requires cushions with homologated armrests. The car seatbelts are used in order to tie the child seat with the car seat.
-Group 3 (from 22 to 36 kg- from 55 lbs to 79.5 lbs)
This group is generally made up of children from 6 to 12. In this case, cushions without armrests are to be used on the seat of the car in order to increase, when sitting, the height of the child so that he/she can regularly use the car seatbelt.
People older than 3 can only sit on the front seat if they are taller than 1.50 metres (4 feet 9 inces). If not, they must travel sitting on an adequate booster cushion, the back of which must firmly lean against the seat of the car. The booster cushion's seatbelt has to be fastened at all times.
Should one of these rules be broken you will be fined. The amount of the fine ranges from 74 to 299 euros (roughly from 90 to 450 USD).
Bars, fast food restaurants and service areas for children
When travelling with children, toilet and snack breaks become essential. If you're travelling on the highway, you'll become soon acquainted with the Autogrill, the quintessential Italian highway restaurant, as well as with aree di sosta, or resting bays.
If you're travelling by national or provincial roads, you'll always find a cafeteria, a restaurant or a or a punto di ristoro, rest stop. As for travelling everywhere in the world, make sure to check how far the next resting area/ Autogrill is before leaving one behind: you never know when your child will decide to take a little trip to the bathroom!
In order to avoid the risk of not finding the right equipment for your child, and turn your journey into a bad experience, it is useful to visit the website of Autostrade per l'Italia (www.autostrade.it), the webpage of the Italian highway system. By visiting it, you will have information on the services available on the road, including children menus, child friendly facilities and, of course, a clearl layout of the safety requirements needed to travel safely, and legally, with your kids.
What the several area di servizio, service areas, can offer you is often explained through some symbols you can find here below, with a brief explanation:
Baby room (with baby-changing table)
Parco giochi (playground)
Area quattro zampe (area for animals)
Internet Wifi (in most of the cases it is not for free)
Travelling with children should not be a hard activity, but a pleasure. Just organize and plan everything beforehand and, most of all, have a look at the local services and rules of the road, which may not be the same as those of your own country, and you'll avoid any inconvenience while on holiday.