Driving in Spain
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Driving in Spain

Documentation
Always carry your driving licence, vehicle registration document (or certified copy) and certificate of motor insurance. It is also advisable to carry proof of payment of your insurance, ie, in the form of a bank statement. If your licence does not incorporate a photograph ensure you carry your passport to validate the licence. If the vehicle is not registered in your name, carry a letter from the registered owner giving you permission to drive.

Driving licences
The law relating to driving licences, as with many laws in Spain, is not always fully understood or implemented, even by the authorities. In Sepember 2004, the law was effectively changed as the result of a decision handed down by the European Court of Justice (it has still to be written in the Statute Book). It was previously the case that foreign EU licences had to be changed for Spanish ones if you took out residencia (or legally work in Spain), and drove a Spanish registered car, or the licence had to be registered if you stayed over three months or bought a Spanish plated car, but did not live here. Spain was, in fact, in contravention of the EU Directive on this subject. Although yet to be written in the statute book, the judgement means that it is virtually effective now. The new law means that your EU foreign licence (credit card type,with the ring of stars) is legal to use in Spain (or anywhere in the EU) whether you are a visitor or live here as your principal place of residence. However, you have to comply with the Laws in Spain where the licence will expire according to Spanish Laws.

Anyone holding a Spanish drivers' license must renew the document according to the following schedule:
From the time you receive your license until you turn 45 years old, you must renew every 10 years
From the ages of 45 to 70, you must renew every 5 years
From the age of 70, you must renew every 2 years
Renewal involves paying a fee, of course, and passing physical and "psico-tecnico" exams. The first is often nothing more than a formality, while the second involves a machine similar to a video game.

The older pre-EU type licences must still be changed for a Spanish one or an EU one from your home country, if this is still possible. The card has been available in the UK for some time. In Spain, it is expected that they will be issued from 2005. If you are stopped by an official who attempts to issue you with a denuncia in connection with this subject, you may quote, " Case C-195/02 of the European Court of Justice, decison 9th September 2004".

Safety equipment
Two warning triangles (one for non-Spanish registered vehicles), spare tyre and tools, set of bulbs, reflective safety jacket, spare glasses (if the driver wears them) are required. First aid kit is advised but not compulsory, headlamp converters if required.

Drink-driving
Spain has strict drink driving laws, only allowing 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per millilitre of blood - stricter than the UK where the limit is 0.8. New drivers are effectively forbidden to drink and drive, with a very low 0.1 mg/l limit. Penalties range from a severe fine, withdrawal of your licence, up to imprisonment.

Seat belts
Are compulsory for the driver and front and rear passengers if fitted. Children under 12 are not permitted in the front seats and, in the rear, passengers under 135cm tall must use specially adapted safety devices and restraints.

Speed Limits
120km/h on motorways, 100 km/h on dual carriageways, 90km/h on single carriageways, 50 km/h in towns.

Lights
Dipped headlights should be used in poor daytime visibility.

Fines
On the spot fines may be issued. Ensure an official receipt is issued by the officer collecting the fine. Fines may be issued for: drink driving, using a mobile phone whilst driving, not wearing a seat belt, not having a valid ITV sticker, seating a small child in the front passenger seat, driving through a red light, speeding. Traffic violations are divided into three categories, from very serious to minor. Offenders may obtain a 30% discount for prompt payment or may pay on the spot.

Be aware of
"L" signs (inexperienced drivers), police, fire trucks and ambulances as they have the right of way on all roads. Traffic lights - flashing amber is a warning to proceed with caution. It is also advisable to be aware of the unexpected particularly on mountain and village roads, where you may come round a bend and encounter herds of goats or cars whose drivers have spotted someone they know, stopped in both directions so the drivers can have a little chat. Horseriders are not deterred by nightfall can be encountered at any time, wearing no reflective clothing. Heavy rainfall can cause rockfalls on minor roads, and road surfaces can become very slippery after the first rains of autumn.

Help
The roadside SOS phones connect you to the nearest police station.

Toll Roads
Are a good way of bypassing traffic as they are almost always empty and consequently, they are safer.

Signposts
Generally not good and often inconsistent. Old signs are often not taken down when new roads make them redundant and can lead to conflicting directions. 'Cambio de Sentido' indicates an opportunity to turn round.

GB sticker
UK registered vehicles displaying Euro-plates (circle of 12 stars above the national identifier on blue background) no longer need a GB sticker when driving in EU countries.

Minimum age for driving

With a full UK licence, is 18 for a car and for a motorcycle over 75cc.

Motorcycle drivers
Drivers and passengers must wear crash helmets.Motorcycles must use dipped headlights during the day at all times. Children under 12 are not permitted on a motorcycle.

Fuel
All grades of unleaded petrol, diesel and LPG are available, as well as lead substitute additive. Leaded no longer exists. Petrol can be carried in a can. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted, although they probably won't work at automatic pumps, which are often the only pumps open out-of-hours and at lunch-time (from noon to 3pm) away from the Autoroutes. It's a good idea to let your card issuer know you will be travelling abroad. This ensures they don't suspend your card if they spot it being used in unfamiliar places, which they sometimes do as an anti-fraud measure.