Driving in Spain
Things you should know about driving in Spain
As a citizen of the EU in order to drive a foreign plated vehicle in Spain you must have with you at all times your passport, current until after your return home, a current valid driving licence, preferably the EU type with the photo card, insurance documents, two EU approved red warning triangles, an approved reflective jacket that must be worn by the driver and any passengers outside of the car on a public highway either during the day or at night. The jackets must be kept inside of the car so they can be put on before getting out and also must be visible from outside the car to any traffic police.
You should also try to carry a set of spare lamps/bulbs for all lights on your car and the tool/s to change them although this is no longer a legal requirement. If you wear glasses for driving you must carry a spare set in the car. It is also prudent, to avoid any unnecessary hassles from traffic police to carry a small first aid kit and if possible a fire extinguisher.
Your number plate should be an EU type with the ring of stars containing your country code, or a small plate/sticker with your country code which should be secured to the rear of the car. Other items that you must carry include a valid insurance certificate and green card (if applicable) although many insurance companies cover you for a set period on mainland Europe, all vehicle documents relating to the car (legally certified copies that carry a stamp are acceptable).
If you are driving in Spain and you are from outside of the EU you will need an International Driving Licence issued by the correct authority in your home country. It must also have one page of information in Spanish.
Changes to the driving laws in Spain:
Fines – As a way of speeding up the payments of fines a new law has been passed which will provide a 50% discount to offenders who pay within 20 days. Please note that if you appeal the fine you lose the right to the 50% discount.
Licence Removal – Serious driving offences in Spain used to result in the confiscation of a driving licence for between 1 and 3 months. However, the new laws have abolished the removal and there will now be a 500 euro fine and the loss of 4 points.
Fixed Fines – There is now a country-wide set of fines as opposed to the regional variations that used to exist. Now small offences are 100 euros, 200 for serious and 500 for very serious. Please note that if you are caught with a radar inhibitor you will be fined 6000 euros as well as the speeding fines.
Points – Some offences that resulted in the loss of points on a licence have been removed such as parking in a bus lane or up on the curb, driving without lights, using a prohibited vehicle on the motorway, driving without due car and attention.
New serious offences – Programming a GPS while driving is now an offence as is parking in a disabled space and having an unreadable number plate. Please note if you manipulate a number plate you can be fined 6000 euros.
Also a very new law for driving in Spain as a resident but from outside the EU means that if you have been in Spain for over 6 months you will need to swap your license for a Spanish one. Please note that this is still an ongoing dispute and a grace period has been extended until 2016.
Can you drive on flip flops or high heels?
Legally yes you can but, should you be involved in an accident and you are wearing such footwear, you can be fined for wearing ‘footwear unsafe’ for driving. It would be difficult to prove that the footwear was not the reason; the law states “you have to drive properly avoiding damage to people or things and it is forbidden to drive in a negligent way”.
So as you can see it would be very easy to apply this law under such circumstances. The best advice is not to drive with flip flops or high heels.
Tips when renting a car in Spain
Firstly ensure that you have adequate insurance.
Ensure that there is an approved reflective jacket in the car, which must be kept in the car as detailed above. If there is not one in the car it is YOU that can be fined if stopped.
Ensure that there are TWO warning triangles.
It is not unusual to be asked to pay a cash deposit for the above items.
Ensure that all the cars paperwork is in the car and carry your insurance documents with you. If you are unlucky enough to have an accident try and take photos of any damage. DO NOT SIGN ANY FORMS you do not understand even if urged to by an official.
Laws and regulations about child car seats in Spain
Basically children must be carried to ensure the maximum chance of survival in the event of a serious accident or when a vehicle is forced to make a sudden emergency stop. With this in mind all people in vehicles up to 9 seats including the driver, are required to wear an approved seat belt if fitted and in the case of children, approved seats specially designed for the purpose.
What are the child car seat requirements?
Up to 9 months and up to 10 kg, a carrycot must be used laid across the rear seat and secured with the car’s safety belt or any specially approved attachment.
From 10kg to 13kg and up to 2 years of age, a child’s car seat fitted in the rear with the child facing rearwards.
From 9kg to 18kg and from 9 months to 3 years old, child seats facing frontwards or rearwards , fitted in the rear of the car and secured as detailed in the seats instructions.
From 15kg to 25kg and 3 to 6 years of age, use a seat adaptor (elevator) to lift the child up to fit comfortably with, if necessary, a CE-EU approved seat belt adaptor.
From 22kg to 36kg and 6 to 12 years of age, use a seat elevator so that the child is comfortably protected using the seat belts.
Children up to the age of 12 are not allowed to sit in the front seat.
About the roads in Spain
The roads in Spain can vary in quality although the majority are now very good as a direct result of EU funding. Some useful guidelines to the different road types are:
Autopista (motorway) – A or E – prefix to road number. Toll roads will usually carry an additional prefix of P (peajes). Maximum speed 120 kph (73 mph) unless otherwise stated. Autovia – dual carriageway. Speed limits vary from 80 to 120 kph. Carretera Nacional – N or CN – prefix to road number. Speed limits vary between 60 and 100 kph. Carretera Comarcal – C – prefix to road number (country roads). Speed limits vary between 60 and 100 kph. Carretera Local – highway. Speed limits are as sign posted but do not generally exceed 100 kph. The above speed limits refer to standard cars, other classes of vehicle can vary depending on type and situation.
You must not overtake (undertake) on the right on the highways unless there is a slip road or another road indicated and you are taking it.
To take a left turn from many roads you will need to find a slip road to the right. You may not stop in the road and wait to turn left if there is a solid white line in the road. On highways and motorways you must look out for a “cambio de sentido” to change direction. These will either take you above the highway or below to change your direction.
All passengers (and the driver) must wear seat belts and small children must be securely fastened to an EU approved child seat situated in the rear of the car.
Do not use your mobile phone whilst driving. If caught you will have to pay an on the spot fine.
When driving in heavy traffic on a dual carriageway, if the traffic ahead is stalled especially in your lane, you must by law, switch on your four way hazard lights to warn the vehicles behind.
Contrary to popular belief, drink driving in Spain is not tolerated. The limits are much lower than in the UK (about half) and the fines can be very large. Recent legislation gives a court the authority to imprison an offender for 3 months. All fines must be paid on the spot. If you do not have the cash on you it is not uncommon for the police to escort you to a cash machine. Failure or inability to pay may again result in imprisonment.
There are many road related deaths in Spain and the government are trying very hard to reduce the figures. It is common to see checkpoints at various junctions where you may be asked for your documentation. In some cases they might check to ensure you have all of the basic requirements in your car for driving in Spain and may even ask you for a breath test. The best advice we can give is to leave the car at home if you are planning to drink.
Some more advice
Horns – You are not allowed to sound your horn at night in town especially residential areas and can result in being fined. Horns must only be used in an emergency as a warning to prevent an accident or when overtaking on a main out of town road.
Do not drive in bus lanes – except in an emergency, which must be proven. You may of course cross one to enter or exit a road.
White lines – A single or double white line in the middle of the road usuallt accompanied by requisite signs means no overtaking and if not adhered to, heavy fines can be the result.
Motorbikes, scooters and mopeds – From December 2005 the privilege of riding a two wheeler up to 49cc without a full driving license was withdrawn.
As a visitor (non resident), if you have the normal “b” car license, if over one year you may ride a 49cc moped or scooter, if held for over three years you can ride up to a 125cc.