Pope Francis arrives by car at Rebibbia prison, where he washed the feet of prisoners in Rome, Italy on April 2, 2014.
Alberto Pizzoli—AFP/Getty Images
By Eli Meixler
November 21, 2017

Drivers taking liberties with Rome’s narrow streets and tight corners now have a new patron to thank if they get pulled over: Pope Francis.

At a meeting in Rome this week, the Pontiff asked Italian traffic police to show a little more understanding for Italy’s more inventive drivers, while criticizing a modern “lifestyle” of “haste and a competitiveness” for “turning the streets into Formula One tracks and the traffic-lights into the starting block of a Grand Prix.”

“Mercy is not a sign of weakness”, the Pope told Italian police. “Nor does it require giving up the use of force.”

Pope Francis appealed to law enforcement try to understand why drivers bent or broke traffic regulations, citing in particular the rise in distracted driving and smart phone use. “Fines are not enough to increase safety, education is required to make people more aware of the responsibilities they have for the people who travel next to us,” Pope Francis said.

Italy recorded 3,283 deaths and 249,175 injuries as a result of road accidents in 2016, with distracted driving and disobeying traffic lights and rules accounting for 31% of accidents, according to the Italian National Institute of Statistics.

The Pope will also be personally doing his part to cut down on speeding. Lamborghini donated a white Huracan outfitted with gold papal racing stripes last week, but Pope Francis himself won’t be getting behind the wheel: the sports car will be auctioned off to benefit charities.

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