Editor’s note: Most people who own property in Spain need to drive a car here too. Regular legal-contributor Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt strays from his usual property themes to update us on the major novelties in Spain’s new traffic laws.
By Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt
Lawyer – Abogado
8th of September 2014
Spain has recently passed new motoring laws which came into force last 9th of May 2014. This new law merits an article unto itself as it significantly alters and impacts existing legislation. I have purposely written it in bullet points so readers can easily skip through the drivel to reach the section they are interested in.
As a disclaimer this article only highlights major changes; it is not to be taken or construed as an exhaustive guide to existing road laws. As a word of caution, this new law only establishes ‘master strokes’; the fine print will be elaborated in detail in future regulation.
This leads me to apologise in advance if some points in my text are obscure. Regrettably the new law leaves quite a few grey areas open to interpretation until further regulation is passed i.e. use of child seats by minors! Not ideal.
Law 6/2014 of 7th of April
The complete wording of the law, in Spanish, can be found in Spain’s Official Law Gazette (B.O.E.). This new law amends Spain’s Highway Code (Law 339/1990).
• Increased in motorways to 130 kph (existing speed limits remain in force however if safety is in doubt)
2. Drink-driving & Drug-driving
Art 1.9 & 1.18
• The legal amount permitted is:
i) 0.5 grams per litre of blood or 0.30 g/l for new or professional drivers.
ii) 0.25 milligrams per litre of exhaled air or 0.15 mg/l for new or professional drivers.
For those – like me – who are still left clueless on the above I put practical examples for both men and women. Alcohol consumption and its effects vary from one person to the next depending on various parameters: age, gender, speed of alcohol consumption, empty stomach, exhaustion level and weight. In general terms for a man weighing 70 kilos this translates to 1.5 beers (understood as half pints in Spain) or two glasses of wine. For a woman weighing 60 kilos this translates to one beer or one and a half glass of wine. So you may want to keep at bay any binge drinking on a Friday night!
• In addition to breath alcohol testing carried out by the Guardia Civil in its random road checks drivers may also be tested for drug-use. If you test positive, besides losing up to six driving points and incurring a hefty fine (detailed below in section seven), you may even lose your driving licence and have the car immobilised. The exception to this rule are medically prescribed drugs. These tests are mandatory and may not be refused without facing legal consequences. Anyone involved in an accident may be forced to take alcohol and drug tests (even pedestrians).
Art 1.12 & 1.14
• The use of helmet is mandatory for under sixteen-year-olds.
• The use of helmet is compulsory on cycling on interurban roads and its use is ‘recommended’ on urban roads as well.
• On overtaking cyclists a distance of 1.5 mts must be observed by drivers. If an overtaking maneuver poses “any” danger to a cyclist a driver must desist until it is deemed safe. Again an open-ended criteria that ought to be ruled in detail in my humble opinion to avoid grey areas specifically on affecting people’s life’s (cyclists).
4. Foreign-plated cars
• Foreign residents: any vehicle owned or driven by them with a foreign licence plate must be changed over to Spanish plates – no exceptions.
• Non-residents: forbidden to circulate in Spain with uninsured foreign-plated cars.
• Non-residents: forbidden to drive in Spain foreign-plated cars which have not passed the equivalent of the Spanish ITV (UK’s MOT).
• Forbidden to drive under twelve-year-olds in motorbikes (as passengers).
• Following Art 1.8 and 1.17 small children, relating to weight and height restrictions (unspecified), may not occupy front or rear seats (sic). Note: Unfortunately the law is unclear on this point and leaves the door ajar to future regulation to elaborate this point in detail. This grey area leaves this article open to interpretation until the regulation is passed. Being a parent this makes me deeply unhappy.
To solve this one must refer to Spain’s 1990 Highway Code (Art 117) and its 2003 regulation as amended by Royal Decree 965/2006.
I construe this as any child under 135 centimetres may not occupy the front seats even if placed on a child seat. They must occupy only rear seats and in addition should be placed on an approved homologated child seat (“Sistema de Retención Infantil” or SRI in Spanish).
Transporting children under 1.35 metres in height (4 feet and 43 inches) regardless of age requires the mandatory use of a child seat . This extends to rent-a-cars and taxis (you must source your own child seat and be able to demonstrate it on renting a vehicle). Professional drivers, such as taxi drivers, will not be held liable on passengers breaching the law. The fine will be €200 and the (private) vehicle maybe immobilized by law enforcement agents. Tourists should pay special attention to this point on passing through or on holidaymaking in Spain.
Children equal to or taller than 135 centimetres may occupy front seats so long as they wear a driving belt.
Dummy-poof recap for concerned parents:
• Minors < 1.35 metres (4 feet and 43 inches) may only occupy rear seats and use of an officially homologated child seat is mandatory.
• Minors ≥ 1.35 metres may occupy front seats (or rear seats) strapped by seat belts.
The use of seat belts is mandatory for all passengers.
6. Radar Detectors
Art 1.17 & 1.18
• The use of such speed-detecting devices is prohibited resulting in fines of up to €200 and you stand to lose up to three driving points.
• Payment of fines increased to 20 days qualifying to obtain a 50 per cent discount.
• Fines range from €500 to €1,000 for driving at double the amount permitted (Art 1.20). Driving points lost range between four to six points.
• Fines range from €500 to €1,000 for driving under the effects of drugs (Art 1.20). Up to six driving points lost.
8. Penalty Information Exchange between European Driving Agencies
Additional second disposition.
European Driving Agencies will freely exchange information on road penalties relating specifically to:
• Speed-driving (fines).
• Jumping red lights.
• Non-compliance with mandatory use of seat belt.
• Non-compliance with mandatory use of helmet.
• Driving using a mobile or similar handheld devices.
• Driving on the wrong lane, reserved to specific vehicles or unauthorised overtaking.
The following three countries have opted out of the above penalty information exchange scheme: United Kingdom (DVLA), Republic of Ireland and Denmark.
Driving in Spain is fairly different from the UK. And I am not referring to driving on the other lane. As a real-life example after having lived and worked in the United Kingdom for the last four years only once did someone blow the horn at me (and yes, it was justified). On coming on holiday to Spain, in the space of only three days I was honked at no less than five times – all unjustified.
The lesson here is that on travelling abroad you would do well to acquaint yourself with local driving laws and get accustomed, as much as possible, to your new driving ‘idiosyncrasy’; take it from me!
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do” – St Ambrose.
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2014 © Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt. All rights reserved.
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