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Driving In Spain: Rules And Recommendations For A Safe Drive

Will you be driving in Spain? If the answer is yes, then continue reading. It won’t hurt to know more about the requirements and Spanish driving laws.

Organizing a road trip is very easy. All you need is a rental car, a map and some free time. Spanish roads are safe and in good shape.

Unfortunately, road accidents were the first non-natural cause of death until a few years ago. Therefore, the government and the DGT (Dirección General de Tráfico or Traffic General Direction) have severely increased driver’s obligations and traffic fines.

In Spain, we drive on the right side of the road. This means that all traffic coming from the right has right of way (except when you are on a road that has right of way). You probably knew it already but this is a reminder for the left side drivers – you know who your are.

 

Types Of Roads And Gas

Spain’s road system is made up of motorways and main roads:

  • Highways (autopistas) are marked with and A or E and the road number. Toll roads (autopistas de peaje) are marked with AP and the road number. All exits (salidas) are numbered.
  • Two-lane highways (autovías) are marked with an E and the road number. They do not always have a median strip between lanes.
  • National roads (carreteras nacionales) are marked with N or CN and the road number.
  • Country Roads (carreteras comarcales) are marked with a C and the road number.

There are 3 different types of gas in Spain:

  • Sin Plomo 95 = Regular Unleaded
  • Sin Plomo 98 = Premium Unleaded
  • Gasóleo = Diesel

Leaded gas was abandoned in 2006 and it’s no longer available. Sin Plomo 98 has a slightly better quality, but it is also more expensive. Unless your rental car specifies it, go for the Sin Plomo 95.

 

Respect The Rules, Avoid Fines

Here are a few traffic rules that you need to be aware of when driving in Spain:

  • While in most cases you could be driving in Spain using a valid driver’s license from your home country, I always recommend getting an international driving permit even if it isn’t enforced. They are handy if you get pulled over or as a second form of (unofficial) ID should something happen. Keep in mind it is only valid if you have you original license with you.
  • You need to be at least 18 years old to drive in Spain and 21 to hire a car.
  • Driver and passengers must wear seat belts at all times.
  • Don’t drive if your blood alcohol level is above 0.5 g/l in the bloodstream (0.25 mg/l in exhaled air). Please don’t drink at all if you intend to drive. Spain has strict drink driving laws. Penalties include heavy fines, loss of license and imprisonment.
  • The speed limit on highways is 120 km/h (75 mph), 100 km/h (62 mph) on main roads or roads with 2 lanes (also called autovías, 90 km/h (56 mph) on all other roads and 50 km/h (31 mph) in urban areas (towns and villages).
  • Talking on a mobile phone while driving in Spain is strictly prohibited, unless you use a hands-free system.
  • Engines, lights, car radios and mobile phones must be switched off while re-fuelling. Authorities claim that mobile phone waves can cause an ignition (and an eventual explosion). People generally don’t speak on the mobile while re-fuelling but don’t turn it off.
  • If you wear glasses (not sunglasses), you must have a spare pair with you in the car.
  • A helmet is mandatory at all times when driving a motorbike and bicycle.

 

Mandatory Equipment

You must keep the following equipment in your vehicle while driving in Spain. If it ever occurs that you need to stop on the side of the road or hard shoulder (due to an emergency, accident or breakdown) use them.

  • Your drivers’ license.
  • The car’s insurance documents.
  • Ownership or rental documents of the vehicle.
  • A reflective vest. Wear it if you need to get out of the car on the road or the hard shoulder).
  • Two warning triangles. Place one in front of your vehicle and one behind it after stopping).
  • A spare tire and tools necessary to replace it.
  • A set of bulbs and tools necessary to replace the bulbs.

 

What To Do If You Are Stopped

In towns, the municipal police (Policía Municipal) are responsible for traffic control. On Spain’s highways the civil guard (Guardia Civil de Tráfico) are in charge, patrolling in cars, motorcycles and helicopters.

The first and most important piece of advice is to always follow the instructions of traffic police and be prepared to stop. The authorities often set up checkpoints and stop drivers at random to ask for their identity and vehicle documents. They are most of the time looking for drugs or criminals.

Spanish law says you must wear a fluorescent jacket whenever you stop by the side of a highway. So, if the Guardia Civil stops you, take your time to put it on before you get out of the car. Otherwise you’ll get an on-the-spot fine.

 

Getting And Paying Driving Fines

Up to €300 on-the-spot fines can be imposed for wide a range of traffic offences. If you are unable to pay an on-the-spot fine (multa) your vehicle can be impounded or immobilized. Alternatively the authorities may escort you to a bank’s ATM.

If you violate a traffic law in Spain you may lose points from the point-based driving license, apart from receiving a fine. The points’ lost will be applied to your drivers’ permit if your country uses this system.

Speeding fines depend on the degree to which you exceed the speed limit and it is severely punished. You will receive a fine, could lose your license and up to six points, and even go to jail.

There is a leeway’ of up to 10% above the speed limit to allow for speedometer and radar errors. Being 30% over the limit is considered a very serious offence. If you’re caught by an unmanned radar trap, you or the rental company will be sent a photograph of your number plate. This picture is considered an irrefutable evidence of speeding.

If you’re fined, you receive a notification (boletín de denuncia) specifying the offence and the fine. Except in the case of an on-the-spot fine, you can pay at any post office, some banks or at the local traffic department. Always make sure that you receive a receipt for it.

 

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