Probably everyone has been caught out at some time whilst driving in Spain. Sometimes you know you’ve taken a risk and perhaps allowed your attention to drift from the speed dial. Other times it’s a genuine lack of awareness. This can be particularly common when you’re driving in a different country. They are probably few and far between, the people who take the trouble to really familiarise themselves with another country’s traffic code before driving there.
However similar the act of driving might be, every country has its differences when the car is on the road. Not being ware of what these are can be potentially dangerous. For example, the law states that when driving round a roundabout in Spain you should use the right hand lane or outside lane. The inside lane is only to be used if you are overtaking someone. If you want to exit from the roundabout and you are in the inside lane then you should continue to travel round the roundabout until it is safe to exit. This difference in the rule means that accidents do happen. Foreign drivers will complain vigorously about being ‘cut up’ on the roundabout when in fact it was them who were in the wrong lane.
We might argue that a condition of being able to drive abroad should be that you take some form of online test in preparation. However, seeing how hard it is for European police to check on the validity of car documents and licences, never mind the knowledge status of holiday-makers, this would be difficult to enforce. Instead, it is to be hoped that the drivers themselves take the responsibility for doing this voluntarily.
Of course, if you do get it wrong whilst you’re driving abroad then foreign nationality is no excuse and you can expect to be fined 'multas' in Spain. The on-the-spot fines can be quite substantial. Although residents have an option of paying later, non-residents can still be expected to pay there and then. However, the fines are not always as heavy as they seem at first as there is usually a significant discount for prompt payment.
If you are unfortunate enough to incur a fine then there are several ways in which you can pay it:
- By telephone calling 060
- On the DGT website at www.dgt.es
- In any local post office
- At any branch of Santander Bank
Until the 4th March it was possible to pay your traffic fine in cash at any Driver and Vehicle Licensing Department (DGT), Trafico, in Spain. This has now been restricted to making payments by credit card. However, it is still possible to pay in cash at the bank or post office.
You will need to take with you the penalty notice and your passport.
You can be fined for a number of infractions, just as you can anywhere. For example, speeding, parking illegally, carrying the wrong documentation, not wearing a seatbelt or using a mobile whilst driving. You should be aware that as a foreigner living in Spain you must carry a national identity card or passport with you all the time.
You are prohibited in Spain from parking on a yellow line. If you do you run the risk of having your vehicle towed away. If this happens to you, you will find a sticker in place of your vehicle when you return including a number to call and the address of the car pound. You can expect both a fine and towing costs to pay.