This is a classic.
I don’t know how it is in your country, but in Spain it is totally forbidden to speak on the mobile phone and drive at the same time.
I’m aware in many countries you can do it. In the state of Illinois, where I spent five years of my life, it was not banned at all.
Years later, someone told me that a new law in this state had restricted the use of phone in areas under construction. Besides that, it looks like you can still use the phone while driving in Illinois.
In Spain is prohibited. Banned. No exceptions.
This includes not only speaking in the traditional way: the phone to the ear and holding it with one hand.
It is also illegal:
- Activating the hands-free phone and talking while having the handset on your lap or as a walkie-talkie.
- Using headphones while driving, both large and small inserted in the ear.
Do you see why you should not do any of this?
It’s simple: to avoid distractions that may cause an accident.
The fine is €200. And if you have a Spanish driving license, three points will be deducted.
How to avoid this mistake
Install an approved hands-free system with Bluetooth, which of course includes a built-in microphone in the car. In-ear Bluetooth, such as the previous image, is also banned.
The other option is that, if you really need to talk to someone, pull over at a safe place to do so.
Do not ever stop the vehicle on the side of the road with little shoulder or on the motorway as I’ve seen on several occasions.
Find a safe place with no risk to anybody.
Let’s see. I don’t know what the word “Stop” means in your country, but in Spain it means “Stop the car completely”.
A “Stop” traffic sign does not mean: slow down, watch and keep going.
It means “STOP the car”. Push the brake until there is no motion at all. Watch for other cars coming from the street or avenue you are about to enter. And continue if nobody is approaching you.
Here is the signal in case of doubt:
In Spain, many Stop signs are in places or crossroads where there is no visibility. So you can imagine how dangerous not stopping at this traffic sign is.
No matter whether you are in spots with good or bad visibility: a “Stop” traffic sign means “STOP”.
Give Way means you have NO priority, but those cars at the avenue, street or roundabout you are going to access.
Give Way means that you may have to completely stop your car, if necessary, in order avoid accidents.
Here is the Give Way signal:
And another version with text in Spanish:
Failing to stop or give way is a €200 fine. In addition, 4 points will be taken off if there was a potential risk involved; this is just for Spanish driving licences.
How to avoid this mistake
Be aware of how dangerous and lethal not stopping at Stop signs can be.
Remember: “stop the vehicle completely, look, and keep going”.
Same for the Give Way sign.
Warning for cyclists
These lines you will read below are dedicated to people who ride bicycles; residents living in Spain, non-residents and tourists:
Everyday I see cyclists going straight across at roundabouts without braking even a bit in addition to not stopping at Stops signs.
I have the impression that some of you think you have some kind of special right, that everybody else should respect you on the road because you are the vulnerable one.
But you don’t brake at roundabouts, as if Give Way signs were not for bikes, but for cars only; as if you were not risking your life, nor everybody else’s.
What kind of respect would you give to cars that don’t obey any traffic laws?
I see cyclists everyday not stopping at Stop signs. I imagine it is not funny having to brake, slowing down, and pushing back again to get the same speed.
I want you to know that I always keep you in mind, that I’m ready for your next one, as you don’t usually respect the traffic signs.
No problem from my side.
I promise I will always brake as I approach you, and will give more than the minimum safety distance each time I pass you.
However, most drivers don’t think like me. They don’t want to knock you over. Not in the slightest. It’s just that they don’t expect you will keep straight on at Stop or Give Way signs without braking whatsoever.
Many drivers believe that you will respect the rules.
Yes, many drivers believe so.
Woefully, they are wrong.
A lot of cyclists won’t brake.
A lot of cyclists won’t stop.
And read this question with me out loud: who is protected in case of an accident?
You are not on your bike.
The metal car body protects people.
Your body is the vehicle body… and this has no metal to protect you.
Moreover, if you cause an accident the rest of the people will always think that it was the fault of the driver of the car.
So sad, isn’t it?
You are free to move around or do sport with your bike anywhere you like in Spain (except on motorways, highways, busy pedestrian areas or prohibited areas for bikes).
But do not provoke accidents.
A person could die because of your negligent attitude and lack of responsibility by not stopping or giving way.
So little you value your life? Good for you, but do not endanger anyone else’s life, okay?
Respect traffic rules in Spain as if you were driving a car. That’s all. As simple as that.
The fine you will get is the same as for cars. The damage caused by negligent bikers could be as lethal as those provoked by cars.
Nobody is telling you to stop cycling. Just to obey the rules.
I hope you’ve understood my message and start riding your bike with the respect you would drive a car.
This goes for people who come from countries where you must drive on the left (United Kingdom, for example) or where there are no specific rules regarding on which side you should drive (the US, at least in the state of Illinois).
In Spain you must drive on the right, both on motorways and roads of two lanes.
If you drive on a motorway being the only car on the road you also have to keep on the right.
If you pass someone on a motorway, you must return to the right afterwards.
Don’t pass people on the right in motorways or intercity roads. It’s a €200 fine.
To enter and exit a roundabout do it the following way (the red car, orange and pink do it wrong).
(Spanish roundabout – DGT / Dlirios)
There is no specific penalty for not driving in the right lane, nor for exiting incorrectly from a roundabout. It is a standard rule we all know in Spain, and so we do it.
Nevertheless, you can be fined for “not giving way to those coming from the right lane on a roundabout, or for not using indicators turn signals and pointing manoeuvres”.
The fine is €200.
How to avoid this mistake
Easy. Just follow everything you’ve read in this chapter.
Remember that you are driving in a foreign country, with different rules, and you must do it the Spanish way.
Exactly the same as I told the cyclist earlier: there are other cars around you. Negligent or irresponsible actions can cause fatal accidents.
Any errors due to bad habits or distractions are very dangerous too.
Perhaps the most leading causes of deadly accidents in Spain: driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs and speeding.
Frankly, you can do whatever you want to do with your life. You know that.
However, if you have consumed alcohol, don’t even think of driving your car. My advice is not to drink at all, and forget whether one beer or two will reach the maximum permitted level on the breath alcohol test.
You know what happens after a few beers… Yes, you got it, you want a few more. And so on.
Memorise the following two sentences:
If you are going to drink: don’t drive.
If you are going to drive: don’t drink.
These two phrases will keep you away from big trouble (jail included).
This one is a no-no as well: “I live next door, nothing happens if I drive drunk for a couple of minutes”.
If you are going to drink:
- Agree beforehand who will be the driver. And of course that person must agree to not to drink any alcohol whatsoever.
- Take a taxi if you are going on your own, and pick up another one to return.3. In many Spanish cities there is night bus service. Use it.
- If you have none of the above possibilities then do not drink, or do not go out if you think you may be tempted.
Anyway, I’ll put below the maximum permitted level of alcohol in Spain:
|DRIVER||RATE IN AIR||RATE IN BLOOD|
|REGULAR||0.25 mg/l||0.5 g/l|
|BEGINNER||0.15 mg/l||0.3 g/l|
|PROFESSIONAL||0.15 mg/l||0.3 g/l|
And a man of about 70 kg (155 pounds or 11 stones) would be:
|ALCOHOL||0.3 gr./l. of blood||0.5 gr./l. of blood|
|Beer||1 can (33 cl)||2 cans|
|Wine||1.5 glasses (45 cl)||2.5 glasses|
|Whisky||1 glass (45 cl)||2 glasses|
I could give you the same sort of talk about illegal drugs, but I’ll summarise it to one sentence: “do whatever you want with your life, but do not endanger anybody else’s life”.
Remember that there are a number of legal drugs that can be tested positive in police or Civil Guard controls.
Carry with you the prescription and medication that could be sensitive to illegal drug tests. Check this with your doctor in addition.
WARNING: Alcohol and illegal drugs is also for cyclists and motorcyclists.
To finish this section let’s briefly speak about speeding.
This is pretty obvious, but I’ll repeat it so that there are no misunderstandings.
When you see a sign that says 50, 80, 90 or 120, to give you just four examples, it means that the speed cannot go over 50, 80, 90 or 120 kmh.
Is that understood?
Okay, here it goes a bit more clearly.
When you see any of these signs:
… My advice is not to go over the speed indicated.
Don’t make calculations if the speed radar has a 7% margin of error, or if you can exceed the permitted speed 7kmh.
The best way to diminish risk and avoid fines, not only in Spain but worldwide, is by not driving over the speed limit.
Exactly the same as I said to the cyclists: You’re not the only person at risk on the road. There are hundreds, or even thousands of people passing nearby you every day when you drive.
Fines for speeding, or driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs can be a few hundred euros or even prison.
How to avoid these mistakes
Don’t drink, don’t take illegal drugs,ordon’t drive overthe speed limit.
- Have you got a flat tyre?
- Has your car broken down?
- Do you feel indisposed to drive?
If you drive a Spanish car and are going to stop on the side of the road or motorway it is compulsory to use these two items:
- Reflective jacket.2. Warning Triangles.
If you think this is an absurd rule invented to get money from drivers through fines… I’ll give you a good example.
In late December 2014, I got a flat tyre on a Spanish country road with very little shoulder, where you could do 70kmh (around 45mph).
It was 2pm and cloudy.
I do not know if you’ve ever felt the wind of passing cars near you.
It’s like a cellular revolution in your body: you get alert in every way. You can hear your breath, like if you were the protagonist of a horror movie.
Without the reflective jacket and warning triangles placed in front and behind the car I’m sure I would have felt the wind much closer.
(Right way of proceeding)
You may think it is embarrassing using the reflective jacket, but it can certainly save your life.
The fine for not using the jacket and triangles is €200.
How to avoid this mistake
Buy your set of approved warning triangles and reflective jacket right now; don’t wait until you have your first incident on the road.
These two devices are sold in many places, even in large supermarkets.
The price of both reflective devices is roughly around €10 to €20.
The triangles can be kept in the boot (trunk in the US), but the jacket should be handy inside the car.
You should leave the car with this reflective device already on, so that other drivers can see you from the first second.
The police or Guardia Civil just stopped you.
Follow these general recommendations:
- If you do not speak Spanish and the officer does not speak English, don’t say: “sí, sí, sí” to everything as if you understood the language. Say in Spanish: “Lo siento, no hablo español”. Which means: “Sorry, I don’t speak Spanish”.
- Don’t get out of the car unless you are requested to do so.
- Behave politely. If you’ve done something and receive a fine, as the adult and mature person you are, accept responsibility for your actions.
- Don’t make silly or rude comments, neither in your own language nor in Spanish; and much less about the police, Guardia Civil or Spain. Remember: you are in a foreign country.
- If you don’t have a NIE number or Spanish residence you will have to pay the fine on the spot, either cash or credit/debit card. If none of these possibilities are available, then your car will possibly be immobilised (or towed away) until you pay the fine.
- If you find yourself in the above situation, cooperate and accept that these are the rules in Spain. Don’t start behaving violently. You could get arrested, and this will make the situation even worse.
- The Spanish police or Guardia Civil will not arrest you without reason. Just cooperate. Don’t try to resist arrest. Once you’re at the police or the Guardia Civil station someone who speaks your language (or your lawyer) will inform you properly.
I hope the pages of this ebook will prevent you from getting in trouble and avoid accidents while driving in Spain.
Don’t forget you are not the only driver on the road.