Sardinia’s Deadly Streets

car-accident-collision-mdFrom my safe, comfortable living-room I can hear ambulance sirens ring out, and I hope this time nobody has lost their life but it’s never that easy in Sardinia as every summer hundreds of people die on Sardinia’s deadly streets.

The statics are staggering, sad and preventable: every year day hundreds of people die on the streets of Sardinia from speed alone. The period between May to September is the worst time for street accidents as the roads are full of tourists who do not know how to drive on these curvy mountain roads.

Below are a few links related to deadly car accidents in Sardinia.

Car accidents in Sardinia a complete up-to-date list of road accidents in Sardinia.
Two dead in car accident in Sardinia
massacre on the streets of Sardinia: Two dead in Badesi
Sardinia – the cold, the wind, the sun … the car accident.

Most accidents in Sardinia are speed and alcohol related. Most of these accidents take the lives of innocent people who were just out for a morning ride on their Vespa.

Here are a few pointers on how to drive and stay alive in Sardinia

  • Wear your seatbelt at all times
  • Know the rules of the road for the country you are in
  • Use caution
  • If you are lost, pull-over and ask for directions
  • Don’t allow yourself to become distracted by Sardinia’s beauty while driving
  • Keep your eyes on the road
  • Use a GPS or a passenger to help with maps and directions
  • Allow the speeders behind you to pass by slightly yielding to the right
  • Never drink and drive. Ever!

On August 17th, 1997 I was pulled over for speeding and the police officer gave me two choices:

  1. Pay the hefty $500 speeding fine, or
  2. Go to an eight-hour lecture on road safety at the local university.

I choose option number 2, as on August 19th I was headed to Australia for a year of backpacking and I needed that $500 to help support my nomadic lifestyle.

8473283-illustration-seamless-pattern-car-crashThe lecture was a lecture of the best kind; complete with a slide show of the after effects of speeding and alcohol related accidents. I saw photos of cars that were demolished beyond recognition, photos of people with blood running down their face and even of people dead in their car, on the side of the road, in a tree, bush and on the other side of the highway. I was scared. Scared to death to speed again.

After that lecture as I was driving home slightly under the speed limit, I saw the aftermath of a car accident, a truly strange coincidence. It must have happened only seconds before my arrival as I saw people crawling out of the median ditch with blood splattered faces, their cars upside down, smashed and demolished. At that moment fear took hold of me and I vowed to never speed again.

It’s not possible for me to write only about the glitter and sand in Sardinia when there’s a whole other truth to be told.

Don’t let the sirens from an ambulance be the last thing you hear while on vacation in paradise.

Don’t drink and drive. Arrive alive.

21 thoughts on “Sardinia’s Deadly Streets

  1. Dear Jennifer,

    First of all, after writing, I hesitated and then did not register since I wanted to verify the facts first. It was not my intention to see this published, but assumed you would read it anyway. Since you ndecided to publish anyway I feel I should come back on this story once more.

    First of all, I am not insulted, but stated that your remarks are an insult to tourists since you blame people without factual basis except reading the newspaper.

    You begin your article by stating that “every summer hundreds of people die on Sardinia’s deadly streets.” I do not know where this comes from but it seems utter nonsense to me.

    I found another statistic here, about 2014. It mentions 98 deaths in a whole year, so no “more” than probably a few dozen in summer. There was a slight decline from 2013.

    You do the Sardinian people a serious disservice by grossly overstating the risks for tourists of driving in the island. Worse you blame them for most of the accidents and are confident that Sardinians themselves know their roads very well since grew up there as children.

    This is all totally without any scientific basis. I wonder what motive you have for doing this?
    I challenge you to find statistics that back up your claims, starting with the “hundreds” of deaths just in summer.


    • Pieter, please do not tell me, on my blog, that I do a disservice to the Sardinian people. If you hadn’t intended for me to publish your comments, you should have never commented on my blog. I have never censored anything on my blog, to which, you would have known had you done research on My Sardinian Life. I take your comments lightly, as you do not live here, like I have for many years. You’ve decided to find one blog post and rip it apart because unlike you, I take the time to read the daily, local newspapers, printed in Sardinia. Now, if the three links that I’ve provided in this post are not sufficient for you, then I suggest you move on elsewhere.

  2. I tried to check the facts now. Sardinia has ca 1.6 million inhabitants, with is 16 x 100.000. last year, 30 people died (when I see recent news I though it was much more on a yearly basis) according to the police ( which is only 2 per 100.000 inhabitants which makes it in effect much, much safer than Italy (6) of the USA (10). My perception on the road seems to be more dramatic than reality. Sardinians are dangerous but clever drivers, it appears. I could not find any figure about tourists part in the numbers, by the way.

    • Maybe you should read the local newspaper from the months I’ve listed in the article, it’s there you will see, with your own eyes, a fact, that from May to September “most” road accidents are the fault of a tourist. I’ve even listed a few links about some of those accidents in which a tourist was a fault. The fact that you are insulted by this meager article surprises me considering I have fact checked and investigated with my own two eyes, and it’s then I have drawn a conclusion, to write this article. Nothing more nothing else. I do appreciate your time and effort in locating some statistics on road fatalities. To state that Sardinians are dangerous drivers, again just proves your weight in words. They are not dangerous drivers, they just know their roads and have practiced on them since they were children.

  3. We just spent 23 days in Sardinia (our 6th or 7th holiday there) and are each time amazed by the high number of local drivers (cars, trucks and in particular motor cyclists) who don’t give a sh.t about road signage, single white or double white lines, speed limits, laws forbidding calling while driving andsoforth. They sometimes almost push you from behind if you don’t agree to their speed.

    To start your article with the statement that tourists are mainly to blame due to their lack of knowledge of driving on mountain roads to me is an insult to people who come and visit your beautiful island (unknowing or even despite these dangers) and I wonder if you can back up your statement with statistics. It is not a matter of tourists or roads, it is most of all like so many things a matter of mentality of the perpetrators. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    In love with Sardinia, with kind greetings,

  4. That is such a surprise, I would have thought Rome and other very large cities. When we took a cab in Rome, we were so nervous in the traffic and how they drive! Sardegna was very different, but one never knows! This has been very informative. Something to be very mindful of when we visit again! Great reminder for all of us as well as very good driving tips! Thank ypu so much and have a beautiful safe day!

    The Sard/American

    • traffic-related death rate in Italy 6.1 fatalities/100,000 inhabitants
      traffic-related death rate in USA 10.6 fatalities/100,000 inhabitants
      traffic-related death rate in Canada 6.0 fatalities/100,000 inhabitants

      these are the real statistics not personal perceptions or opinions based on usual old common places about Italy and italian drivers by anglo saxon people

  5. In the three times I have been to Europe (although never to Sardinia), Italy was the country I feared the most in a taxi. I kissed the ground when each ride was over. Nothing else even close around Europe.

  6. Good one Jennifer and of course it all applies to Rome and other parts of Italy. We live in such a beautiful country that it is sometimes easy to take our eyes off the road, to allow our thoughts to drift. Say concentrated, stay sober and stay safe!

  7. ..nice one Jenny! the wine of speed is bad enough as it is, if you add some alcohol you get a fatal cocktail. Here in Sardinia (and not only) we still have a lot to learn about drinking and driving. Every day I hear discussions in which many sustain that such accidents were caused by people “not used to drinking” as if one could learn how to deal with such an intoxication. The bottom line is that even after a couple of harmless drinks and even if your head is clear and you feel fine, your reaction time to an unexpected incident drops dramatically. Depending on how fast you could be driving that translates to 40-50 meters covered per second before you even realize what is going on or what you were supposed to avoid. IF YOU BOOZE – YOU DON’T DRIVE. Nowadays alcohol testing meters are dirt cheap it would be so easy as to deploy them inside a car together with other lifesavers such as ABS or airbags and enforce drivers to take a quick test before firing up – green light you’re Ok red light engine doesn’t start …
    Just quick a mention regarding our tricky road system, what is a real killer is the lack of calculation or planning behind the construction of roads. The majority of our roads date back years before it was even thought possible that self-propelled machines would run along them at neck-breaking speeds…they started off as cute dirt tracks winding their way through the mountains and avoiding the property or lands of the local dignitary…with the age of motorization they became tarmac and spruced up a little with signs and inexplicable indications – when they are where they should be. The curves of most main roads are lacking sufficient radius to keep anything other than an ox-cart from toppling over if taken without sufficient precaution. Us Sards are used to this and are very wary when going out and about and we take care not to follow our GPS blindly. We also have a rather gruesome in built sensibility to skid marks and chewed up guard rails that warn us of up-coming perils on the road. The sad fact is that, apart from the main “Carlo Felice” all the other lines of communication were not planned to sustain modern day traffic. So whenever visiting our beautiful island please take extra care, you never know what you might find after the next bend …perhaps a herd of sheep or some angry Sardinian bulls claiming back their territory!!.

  8. What scares and saddens me is that Sardinians are getting a bit fatalistic about all this: it’s every summer’s stale refrain, so people don’t listen to it anymore. And when they get behind the wheel, their second nature takes over. That is a country built around the myth of speed: Formula 1, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Ducatis, take a look at car ads on tv or on magazines, it’s all about speed, performance, torque, not about safety, comfort and gas mileage, like it is on this side of the ocean. FIAT shaped the Italians’ mind more than schools – or driving schools, for that matter. I learned to drive in Sardinia, now I am scared to drive there, and even more scared to bike, walk, and… cross the road. Zebra crossings are just for decoration, 1 driver out of 20 pays any attention to them. It is a scary mess, and Jen you are so right, it all goes back to education and driving schools. And the public opinion too. BTW, did you know that in Italy, up until a few months ago, killing people while DUI was not a criminal offence? Just to give you an idea…

    • Thank you for your insightful comment, Alberto. I had no idea that DUI was not a criminal offence just a few months ago! I’m really shocked and saddened. Has a law now been passed making it a serious offence in Italy?

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