Driving in spain the laws, the laws on driving in spain, speed limits spain
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A guide to driving in Spain

 

Booking Centre Online was created with one main objective; to offer its clients the best vehicles with the best service at unbeatable prices. Why pay more when BOOKING CENTRE ONLINE offers MORE THAN THE REST CHEAPER THAN REST? Car hire throughout Spain, the Canary & Balearic Islands.
   

 

 

The following gives information for visitors as well as residents.  However, there is far too much to include here and anyone driving any distances in Spain should consider obtaining the book, Motoring in Spain by Brian J Deller.

 

If you wish to see as much as possible of Spain then having your own car is certainly the best method of transport, even if it may take you a couple of days to feel confident about driving on the opposite side of the road. As an EU citizen and a tourist, to drive a foreign registered vehicle in Spain you must have with you, and you can be fined for not obeying the following:

 

1. your passport, current until after your return home

2. Current driving licence, preferably the EU type with the ring of stars

3. Two EU approved, red warning triangles

4. Approved reflective jackets that must be worn by all outside the car at anytime, day or night, outside the vehicle at the side of any highway not in an urban (street lights?) area. The jackets must be kept inside the car so they can be put on before getting out and also must be visible from outside the car. The pocket in the back of the front seat is a good place.  The jackets are inexpensive and can be bought at most supermarkets if you do not have them already

5. A set of spare lamps/bulbs for your car and the tool/s to change them

6. If you wear corrective glasses for driving, a spare pair

7. Your number plate should be an EU one with the ring of stars containing your country code, or a small plate/sticker with your country code (GB, etc) should secured to the rear of the car

8. Valid insurance

9. All vehicle documents relating to the car (legally certified copies are OK)

Recommended, but not mandatory is a First Aid kit and a fire extinguisher

It used to be that you had to carry a set of bulbs with you but this has now changed. The law has realised that with most new vehicles, changing a bulb is impossible anyway as they are sealed units. Therefore it would be unreasonable to insist on carrying spare bulbs.

Latest news updates - NEW fines and penalty points

 

If you are from outside the EU, you will need an International Driving Licence issued by the correct authority in your home country. It must have one page of information in Spanish.

Remember that your “tourist status” in a foreign country usually applies for only three months as far as insurance is concerned, so for any longer periods, do not forget to discuss this with your broker. The roads in Spain vary from very poor to very good, the latter especially since Spain joined the EU and has benefited from the funding from other countries over the last 20 years. The main connecting roads are generally excellent. In addition, with getting lost can be prevented if a map is always at hand.

 

 

   
Related pages
Related articles
 
 

Road classifications and speed limits in Spain

Autopista (motorway) - A or E - prefix to road number: these can be toll roads (peajes). Maximum speed 120 kph (73 mph)... example, AP7 or E90

 

Autovia - dual carriageway, not necessarily with a central reservation.  Speed limits vary from 80 to 110 kph .... example A8

 

Carretera Local - highway. Speeds are as signed, but usually not more than 100 kph

 

Carretera Nacional - N or CN - prefix to road number, main roads. 100 to 60 kph .... example CN322

 

Local small roads are often CV roads

 

Please note that the speeds are somewhat less for various classes of vehicles including towed trailers/caravans

 

 

A FEW HINTS for driving in Spain

 

Traffic lights
The traffic-lights (semaforas) in Spain are more often than not, situated only at
your stop line for the junction and so you can see when they change when you are in the front of the queue, there is a set of smaller lights on the support post.  An amber flashing light means that there is a hazzard approaching, such as a crossing. You can pass through this light, with caution if clear to do so. Sometimes you will come accross an amber light and if you pass through at more than the speed limit, this will change the next lights to red, meaning that you have to stop.

 

Pedestrian crossings

The Law for pedestrian crossings until recently is not as strict as in for example, the UK where a driver is always at fault if the vehicle hits a pedestrian on the crossing.  You must step onto the crossing, remembering to look LEFT, and show the palm of your hand to any approaching vehicles.  Previously, they still did not have to stop, but a new Law involving penalty points means that the drivers can be penalized now for not stopping. Many tourists are injured, some killed each year, for only looking right when crossing the road. 

 

Overtaking

You may NOT overtake on the right (inside lanes) on the highways unless there is a slip road or another road indicated and you are taking it. I know this is the same elsewhere in the World where bad drivers insist on cruising in the middle lanes. However, it is very common in Spain to be passed on both sides of you so be aware when shifting lanes.

 

A FEW BASIC RULES
Give way to traffic from the right unless otherwise signed. On roundabouts you give way to the left unless signposted different. Do not pull into the middle of the road to turn left if there is a solid line in the road. There are often special lanes for this, signposted cambio de sentido (change of direction), especially on the autovias.

 

Seatbelts
It is compulsory for all in the car to wear seatbelts, both front and rear where fitted. The driver is responsible for any fines where passengers are not wearing an approved belt.  Children under 12 years of age are not allowed in the front seats (unless they are over 150 cm or 4 ft. 9 ins, then they can
unofficially get away with it. It is apparently to do with being secure in the safety belt). Also, if seated in the back, the belt must fit correctly, or a special “raising seat” must be fitted. Animals must be restrained when in the passenger section and not allowed to jump around.

 

Drinking and driving (see more info here)

Do not drink and drive - the limits are about half those in the UK and the penalties very high including losing your licence on the spot, boosted by the new “rapid justice” Courts, as are heavy on-the-spot fines for traffic offences. You will not be allowed to leave the area until you have paid any fine or appeared in Court, including spending time in the cells if you cannot pay in cash. 

 

Update courtesy of Andrew Marshall
I think it would also be useful to point out another very important difference from driving in Britain, whcih is the "hierarchy" of traffic signage. At many large junctions, there are traffic lights AND a stop sign, which seems confusing and in Santander and Bilbao I often see drivers of British registered cars dithering and hesitating - quite naturally, as very few websites or official guide books actually point this out and it is not intuitive!
In fact, the STOP sign comes into force if the traffic lights fail or operate as flashing amber (which is sometimes the mode used at night).
Thus a uniformed traffic police officer has priority over all signs (as in Britain) and the traffic lights come next in the pecking order; then "vertical signs" (e.g. a STOP sign on a pole) and finally, a "horizontal" sign such as a STOP line on the road surface, usually faded and very often invisible.

There is also a little known rule obliging a motorist to stop at the scene of an accident and give assistance as necessary (bare minimum is to call 112, where it is possible to obtain an English speaking operator); although there was in the past an obligation to ferry an injured person to the nearest first aid post, current best practice advises against this owing to likelihood of spinal injuries etc.
However, failure to assist a person in danger is a criminal offence, unlike in Britain where it is perfectly legal to stand and watch someone haemorrhage to death!

 

Parking in Spain
As a general rule you may not park in Spain where the pavement curb is painted yellow or where a no parking sign is displayed. In major cities and now even the villages, non-metered on-street parking is difficult to find but in some areas, there are parking spaces marked in blue for which you should purchase a ticket from a nearby machine on the pavement usually topped with a blue and white “P” sign, or from an attendant. These spaces are usually for about two hours maximum. Penalties for parking infringements vary from town to town and can be heavy.
*On the Costa del Sol at least, a parking fine in a blue bay is around 3 Euros.

   
It helps if you have a basic understanding of road signs in Spain. See a selection of common road signs here
Loading bay only
   

Driving a foreign vehicle in Spain

If you park illegally, especially in a foreign car, you will almost certainly become a victim of the 'grua' - the local tow truck, and if you suffer this, there should be a sticker left on the curb with the phone number/address of your car’s new location. Getting your car back will be a hassle and will cost you dearly in fines and fees, not to mention the possible problem of your not speaking Spanish. Where possible, look for underground parking with security attendance. its worth paying that little bit more. Collecting your car from the grua is no fun. You go to the compound and pay the recovery fee. Then you go to the police station and pay the fine. Then you return to the compound with your receipts and get your car back.

You will note however, despite all this advice, the Spanish will park wherever their car happens to come to a halt, even on crossings, pavements and roundabouts, but the new 2005 Laws now mean that penalty points can be given to parking transgressors.

 
Parking machine

Pictured left is a ticket machine for pay and display parking in blue bays.

 

Easy to use - simply insert coins until the departure time you want is displayed on the machine. Press green button for ticket and display in your windscreen.

 

If you have a parking ticket fine you can pay it with this machine. Insert the ticket into the envelope you have been given, along with cash payment. Then put into the letter box in the machine.

 

Normally parking is free on Sundays, bank holidays and every day between 2pm-5pm but read each machine carefully.

Fines for motoring offences in Spain
New fine rates have recently been published, and over set limits in each location (autopista, town, etc.) you can be arrested on the spot. You are
not allowed to have a radar speed detector in your vehicle, let alone use one.  Speed traps are becoming quite frequent but not as bad as in the UK with cameras (yet; the salesmen are moving in). Fines for other offences are calculated on the severity of the offence and there is a table for the guidance of the police and Courts.

 

If you are a tourist without assets in Spain, all fines are payable in cash “on the spot”. The legal drink-drive limit is currently 0,5 grammes per litre of air using a breathalyzer. The very high death rates in Spain (in the top 3 in the “old” EU) means that if caught with excess alcohol or drugs in your body, you can expect to lose your licence (in a special Court, possibly that same day) or, if a resident, have to attend a special school.

 

A common fine currently being issued is for not having lights on when it's raining. The fine is around 200€.

 

Road tax and vehicle inspections (see about the Spanish ITV here)
If you are using your foreign registered car in Spain for a few months (no more than six months in any calendar year is allowed) then it must be legal as far as roadworthy, insurance and road taxes are concerned. You cannot get your car MOT'd in Spain, or even in Gibraltar, and if the certificate runs out, not only will you be illegal in Spain, but also as soon as you arrive back in the UK.   Spanish vehicles have to conform to inspections also, depending on the type and use of the vehicle.

UPDATE: October 2010: The Spanish police are now cracking down on all foreign vehicles driving around in Spain. If you are caught using a UK vehicle in Spain whilst living here, you will at the least, have your vehicle impounded. Fines are being handed out in the region of 2,000 euros. Having no UK road tax on your vehicle invalidates your insurance.

 

Toll/Peaje roads in Spain and how to use them
Spain has over 2,000 km of toll roads and more are planned. They are of excellent standard and all have service stations with cafes of an acceptable standard every 40km or so. The tolls are expensive, especially in summer when the rates are doubled and are usually calculated per km. Some toll roads, for long distance travelling allow you to collect a ticket at the start and then pay the total when you exit the road. They do however mean that you can drive relaxed and safer over long distances as the locals usually avoid them. Most ticket booths are on the left so in a UK car, the passenger will need to ttake the ticket/pay. Some booths have operators both sides.


Toll roads

 

 

As you approach the ticket booth or entry to the toll road, carefully make your way into one of the lanes and take your ticket/pay. When you come off the toll road and need to pay, watch the lanes carefully as all the lanes are different. 'Manual' is where the operator will take your cash, 'Automatic' is a machine only where exact money can be paid. 'Tarjeta' is to pay by credit card only.

 

Mobile telephones in your car in Spain
The use of a mobile telephone, other than a true hands-free, whilst driving is now banned in Spain, even at the side of the road. You have to pull off the road completely away from any traffic. You may also not have any device in your ears to listen to music or your mobile phone etc., only allowed is something for enhancing your hearing, i.e. a deaf-aid.  Sadly, you still see erratic driving where a mobile is in use, but penalty points and fines can now be awarded.

 

Navigation aids and DVD´s etc.
This is a grey area of the law. Some say these aids are illegal yet they are now commonplace. I personally was one of the first in Spain to have such a device and used it for 8 years with no problems. Indeed once the police stopped me and were fascinated by the device. The driver must not use any screen based aid to navigation (or entertainment) while on the road.  You must pull completely off away from traffic. (It makes sense really; after all, you are not allowed to drive down the road with a map on the steering wheel). DVD players and screen based devices other than those directly needed to operate the car must be positioned so the driver cannot see them.
However, in reality, the police rarely have anything to do with this law.

 

Speed trap detectors
You are not allowed to have a radar speed detector in your vehicle, let alone use one.

 

Towing a trailer in Spain

According to the Guardia Civil, you can tow a trailer in Spain subject to certain rules. Your vehicle towbar is inspected as part of your ITV (MOT). You need to produce a fitting certificate. There is no charge for the inspection, on top of your ITV fees.

 

Up to 750kgs:

 

  • Needs Ficha Technica and ITV.

 

  • Does not need its own registration*

 

  • Does not need its own insurance*

 

* Unless run for business use.

Over 750kg:

 

  • Needs its own registration and red licence plates.

 

  • Also needs the plates of the vehicle towing it clearly on show.

 

  • Will need its own insurance.

 

  • Subject to road tax also.

 

  • Subject to ITV also.

 

Losing your licence
If you are stopped by the police or interviewed at the scene of an accident and you are showing signs of being incapable of driving the vehicle for any reason, the police are empowered to immediately take away your driving licence and you could lose it if found in breach of the Law. There are laws affecting penalty points that are different (more restrictive) for new drivers. The Spanish government is determined to reduce the high accident rates on the roads. NEW LAWS dictate that if you are caught driving without a licence it is classed as a criminal offence and not a driving offence and you will face an immediate 6 months in jail.

 

Motorcyclists in Spain
Moto’s, as motorcycles are called in Spain, are subject to the same Laws as other road users, including the reflective jacket rule, which has to be worn by law if you dismount the bike and stand on the highway. However, wearing a hi-vis jacket could make you more visible to other motorists and reduce the chance of a collision. The headlight must be on dipped setting during the day, and an approved crash helmet must be worn, properly fitted and secured, at all times while riding.  Penalty points can be awarded for transgressors. Otherwise, the Laws are similar to other EU countries.

 

Spanish plates (full feature and samples here)
We get lots of E-mails from people wishing to put Spanish number plates on to imported cars. The general advice is, for right hand-drive cars,
unless the car is a classic or is special to you for sentimental reasons, DO NOT BOTHER. It is better to sell it in the country of origin, or arrange to swap it with someone returning there.

If it is a motor-home or a medium to large right-hand drive commercial vehicle, you will not be allowed to anyway for safety reasons.

If you are coming from a left-hand drive EU country, then it is not so difficult, but unless you speak Spanish, use the services of a gestor or registered business advisor. It will save you a lot of sweat and heart-ache.

 

   
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