We’ve all seen the “big changes” to the traffic law which comes into force today. Here are some of the smaller changes you may not have heard about in the expat press:
Cyclists under 16 are obliged to wear helmets in urban areas. Over 16’s or outside of urban areas, you aren’t.
When overtaking a cyclist, you have to give them a minimum of 1,5 metres space, and ideally should move your vehicle into the other lane. If you can’t give them that much space, you can’t overtake. If you are in a narrow road and meet an oncoming cyclist, and there isn’t 1,5m space, the motor vehicle must stop until the cyclist has passed.
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If you are driving a dangerous or unlicensed vehicle, or are not in a fit state to drive, or are carrying kids in a dangerous manner, your vehicle can be impounded on the spot. An additional fine may be required to retrieve your vehicle, as well as proof that you have resolved the issue that lead to the impound. Your bicycle, however, cannot be impounded, unless it is parked and causing a nuisance, in which case it can be towed to a municipal pound!
Radar detectors and inhibitors are forbidden. That doesn’t mean radar warnings are forbidden – your TomTom can still access its database of locations and warn you of fixed speed traps. What you can’t have are any active scanners looking for radar traps. €200 fine and three points per detector, or €6,000 fine for an inhibitor.
Secondary speed limits now drop, on the whole, from 90 kph to 80 kph. Certain motorway limits go up to 130 kph and these will be clearly indicated. Townhalls will be able to designate 20 & 30 kph zones in urban areas (once a secondary decree is approved in a couple of months).
Child safety seats have changed. It’s no longer based on weight, but height, in accordance with EU guidelines. Child retention units (SRI in Spanish) are required for all children under 1,35 m tall. A child can only ride in the front seat, even equipped with an SRI, if all back seats are occupied by children. A vehicle may be seized if caught carrying children without this system installed.
Driving under the influence of drugs will cost you €1000, unless they have been prescribed by a doctor and you are suffering from side effects, in which case it’s still free.
Driving whilst drunk is an automatic €500 fine. If you double the limit, or have re-offended within one year, it’s €1000. Drink levels in blood remain the same, 0,50 mg per litre of air expelled, or 0,30 mg per litre for professional or new drivers (first two years of driving).
Pedestrians on roads can be stopped by the police and drink / drug tested if they are judged to be a danger to other road users. Currently, this was only obligatory if they had caused an accident. They can be fined if they are judged to be out on control and a danger to other road users.
New serious infractions under the law:
- carrying out work on a roadside without a permit
- allowing your load to spill on a public road and causing a nuisance to other road users
- damaging a road by using an unsuitable vehicle (warn that bloke in Albox who has a tank!)
- unauthorised alteration of traffic flow due to an unsuitable vehicle or load
If you hit a wild animal on the road, it’s now your fault and you can’t claim the damage back off the road authority, UNLESS the road is supposed to be protected against animals (ie the fence is broken) or the danger is not clearly signposted by the use of “wild animal” signs.
Vehicles can’t travel at under 50% of the maximum speed limit. That means, for example, if your motorbike can’t travel over 60kph you aren’t allowed on motorways. However, cyclists are now exempt from this law, allowing them onto more roads. They still aren’t allowed onto motorways.
Residents and home owners in Spain must register their vehicle on Spanish plates. This means that you can’t drive your vehicle on foreign plates on Spanish roads if you’re a resident or own property in Spain.
Spain has joined an EU wide system for interchanging information on drivers, meaning they can chase foreign drivers who accumulate fines in Spain when they return to their own country. I don’t think the UK has joined up to this scheme, but France and Portugal have.
The appeal or early payment period for fines has been extended from 15 days to 20. If you pay within these 20 days, you normally get 50% off your fine (but accept the charge).
Vehicles can be banned from roads for environmental purposes; towtrucks have an automatic right of way when assisting a breakdown on the road; and police who spot a traffic violation can now issue a fine without stopping the vehicle if they don’t think it safe or viable to stop the vehicle., as long as they are confident in the identity of the vehicle.
Meaning coppers who see you veering down the road, or speeding through the back streets of Turre, can fine you just on the numberplate.
And vehicles which don’t comply with environmental laws can no longer be imported / exported from Spain. Stopping a trade in ancient vehicles being exported to third world countries where they cause accidents.
Cancer patients are allowed to drive again. There was a strange clause in the traffic law which meant that patients undergoing chemo or strong anti-cancer treatments weren’t allowed to drive without a special permit. The new law removes most of these restrictions, except for those undergoing the most severe levels of treatment.