A ROUGH GUIDE TO DRIVING IN SPAIN

The major A roads and motorways (Autovia) networks in Spain are superb. The average volume of traffic per kilometer of road is far less than most other EU countries. Long distance driving is regarded by many as a pleasure and the general absence of thousands of speed cameras is a welcome bonus. (even though they are on the increase in and around cities). The biggest threat to any Expat driver however are Spanish drivers that are perceived as agressive, inconsiderate and arrogant with no ability to anticipate danger, are totally reactive and have not yet found the indicator stalk after 45 years of Seat driving. However; EU statistics show a totally different story; fatalities in Spain are amongst the lowest in Europe with more accidents in rural areas than cities. Spain has halved it's fatality rate over the last ten years bringing it near to the high standard of the British and Scandinavian drivers. Well, how do they do it? We can put this revelation down to a combination of many driving skills that are unique to Spain. Here are just a few; driving so close to your rear bumper at 120 kmph on the Autovia and on twisty mountain roads is a rare skill that takes years of practice in the not so gentle art of encouraging you to "vamos" ! Changing lanes without signalling is achieved quickly because everyone expects it. The horn has evolved into a gesture of greeting (two parps) or as a statement of impatience or anger (continuous blast) accompanied by random hand gestures; not, as a warning of any hazard, or by a lorry coming round a blind bend on your side of the road with 16 tons of impending doom. Texting and using phones whilst driving is the height of multitasking that most other Europeans just cannot emulate. Texting on a motor bike is not an odd event. Driving in the middle of a narrow country road round a blind bent is intuition in the extreme, the skill of seeing round corners is very much a 'Latinos' skill. Naturally Spanish parking skills are superb in their audacity. A locked car, double parked on a pedestrian crossing is commendable. Both young men and women drivers are aggressive in offensive driving because macho skills are preferable to defensive driving which is the norm for us wimpish Northern Europeans. Embracing the "I am coming through no matter what" attitude leaves us cowering on the crash barrier by stone faced lorry drivers who rarely acknowledge your existence as you hit the rough stuff to get out of the way; but we do accept their God given right to own the whole road. A yellow Seat Leon can be seen from a long way off, a considerate colour for any Spanish buck with a back to front baseball cap peering though the steering wheel from a lowered seat determined to keep the rev counter on the red line. As flashing indicators are superfluous on Spanish cars so to are the front wheels of motorbikes. Doing wheelies is an amazing skill and shooting up the hill to Competa square weaving through the pedestrians on one wheel is a triumph of skill with just a touch of the surreal. So; here are some tips on driving in Spain for the Expat with at enviable long no claims bonus and a new car: Your friends will have a secret betting book on when you will scrape, bump or reverse your new car into a high curb for the first time and get that all too familiar dent. Always wear a seat belt (even when stationary) you do not know where the impact might come from. Make sure the air bags are switched to 'on'. Near misses are the norm on most journeys and always adopt a defensive driving attitude if you want to get to your destination in this world. Tail gating is the rule; suck it up and let them pass. The right indicator may be used to signal your compliance but leaving the left indicator on permanently will be ignored. Slowly coming to a stop with no indicators will result in a mixed bag of insults and gestures relating to the morals of your mother. Always keep your distance on the Autovia because one puncture ahead of your will probably end in carnage and death as your reactions will be slower than the local driver with nine lives. Keep to the speed limits even when they change three times within three kilometres. Cameras are nice little earners for the local council. Always take pictures if involved in an accident because many drivers in Spain do no have insurance and or have not taken a test. Cash settlements not involving any official are common and roadside negotiating skills are essential. Spanish women drivers can drive more aggressively that their male counterparts; respect their superior racing skills and feminine balls. Parking in a defined space parallel to the lines can be tight so do what the Spanish do and Park obliquely across two spaces. Using emergency flashers means you can get away with parking virtually anywhere for about 15 minutes and about three hours from two o'clock in the afternoon until five. Note: many towns do not paint their yellow 'no parking' lines often enough and they fade. Parking on a yellow line that might be there invites a fine and provides a good income for the local police. Having a hired car parked anywhere near a junction or a place deemed in any way unusual is asking for trouble. (I suggest you remove the hire company sticker from the back window to avoid 'fine lust') . Stopping in the middle of the road and talking to your friend driving in the opposite direction should be encouraged ( is it rumoured that it may become part of the Spanish driving test?) . Motorbikes will always weave in and out of traffic and they will always come up on the inside at speed when you are least expecting it. (illegal by the way) Always check your right inside mirror before turning right. Local police have been known to stop cars for no reason to check papers and to spot fine you for something that may have happened or a faulty light etc. All police need a reason to stop you, carry car papers with you just in case. Stay in the car with the window half down so they come to you. Ask for an explanation of the problem and for a receipt for any fines paid on the spot. Say you will telephone the national police for advice. Carry their telephone number. Get a signed charge sheet with the Officer's name on it. No paperwork of the incident means no record of where your money has gone. Taking pictures and selfies with officers is not recommended unless you personally know the Police Commissioner. The police are usually polite and helpful but many people feel threatened by someone carrying a gun that looks very military. In the unlikely event that you are flagged down at a road block manned by police dressed in black wearing black face masks and carrying submachine guns; stop, wait in the car for instructions. This will be the anti terrorist squad on a day out; they won't be interested in your out of date ITV sticker or your crying kids in the back of the car. Driving in Spain does need a special skill set and one should always expect the unexpected. But remember you are driving in a country with some of the lowest fatality rates in Europe. Safe driving! Martin Robinson

Add comment


Security code
Refresh

Become a Fan

Connected Us