Driving in Spain
Right of way – Priority
Unless otherwise indicated, the person on the right ALWAYS has priority. This is important not only at junctions but also on roundabouts.
Most drivers seem blissfully unaware of the rules regarding roundabouts and many people seem to think that it is OK to exit the roundabout from the inside lane: it is not. Learner drivers are taught to go around the entire roundabout on the outside lane, as long as they signal to indicate that they are not intending to leave the roundabout and this is permitted. You should choose which lane to use according to the exit you are going to take, but remember:
- You must drive anti-clockwise around a roundabout
- Traffic already on the roundabout has priority
- You must only leave the roundabout from the outside lane
The last point is very important and the DGT website (Department of Traffic) recommends that if you are not able to get into the outside lane, then you should go round the roundabout again. For an illustration showing how to drive round roundabouts, see the DGT website (revista tráfico)
Even during the day, you must use your dipped headlights when going through a tunnel.
If there is an accident or if you break down inside the tunnel, you should turn off your engine, put on your hazard warning lights and your side lights.
Parking / Waiting
It is forbidden to tow another vehicle. If you have Spanish insurance, breakdown cover is included and they will tow your car to the garage of your choice and take you by taxi to your specified destination. If you have foreign insurance you must make sure that you are covered for breakdown cover.
Speed restrictions are being strictly enforced. Previously there was a 10% margin but this was reduced to 5% for fixed radars and 7% for mobile radars in September 2014. It is a good idea, therefore, to follow speed limits exactly.
You must use your dipped headlights between sunset and sunrise.
You must also use your headlights in a contraflow system.
It is forbidden to tow another vehicle. If you have Spanish insurance, breakdown cover is included and they will tow your car to the garage of your choice and take you by taxi to your specified destination. If you have foreign insurance you must make sure that you are covered.
Spanish drivers are taught to drive using their mirrors without checking their blind spots. You should bear this mind and be particularly careful on motorways. You might find drivers just pull out onto the motorway from the slip road.
If you have a minor accident with another car, you should complete the accident claim form. No one should admit responsibility: that will be decided at a later stage by the insurance companies but you should include a diagram of the position of the cars on the road, damage, etc.
On each type of road there is a minimum speed. If you are unable to drive at that speed, you should use the outside lane and put on your hazard warning lights.
It is forbidden to tow another vehicle. If you have Spanish insurance, breakdown cover is included and they will tow your car to the garage of your choice and take you by taxi to your specified destination. If you have foreign insurance you must make sure that you are covered
The minimum distance for overtaking is 1.5 metres. This applies regardless of whether you are overtaking a car or bicycle or passing pedestrians. Similarly, you must not overtake if there are cyclists coming towards you on the other side, even if they are on the hard shoulder.
You must carry the following current documents with you in your car:
- ITV (MOT) certificate
- impuesto de circulación receipt (road tax paid to the Town Hall)
- permiso de circulación (car licence issued when the car was originally registered)
- driving licence
- proof of insurance
You can be fined for having previous year MOT (ITV) certificates so you should only keep the current certificate with the car papers.
You should use your fog lights if you are driving through fog but you MUST NOT use your back-fog light except in the case of very heavy fog.
The maximum permitted level of alcohol is 0.5g/litre in the blood and 0.25mg/litre in an exhaled breath. For drivers with less than two years’ experience this drops to 0.3g/litre in the blood and 0.15mg/litre in an exhaled breath
Warning triangles / Reflexive jackets
You must carry 2 warning triangles and reflexive jackets. If you break down, you must put one hazard warning triangle 50 metres behind your car and another in front. As it’s obligatory to wear your reflexive jacket as soon as you get out of the car, it’s a good idea to put it on in the car itself.
You must wear seatbelts in the front and back.
Mobile phones must not be used while driving. You can use hands-free kits but not if these have an earpiece attachment.
Some of the more unknown fines
- Putting on make-up, eating or setting a GPS while driving: 100-euro fine
- Using a mobile phone: 200 euro fine and 3 points off your licence
- Driving with your elbow out of the window: 100-euro fine
- Driving bare-chested or barefoot: 200-euro fine
- Driving on the inside or middle lane of a motorway when the outside lane is free: 200-euro fine
- Needlessly sounding your horn: 80 euro fine (the horn should only be used to avoid an accident)
- Having a “For sale” or “Se vende” sign on the window: 200-euro fine
- Listening to excessively loud music: 80-euro fine
- Out-of-date driving licence or no MOT certificate: 200-euro fine
- Going through an amber traffic light: 80 euro fine (this is only permitted when it is impossible to brake)
- Not having a spare of glasses if you need glasses for driving: 90-euro fine