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Legal and safe on Spanish roads
The CB Friday  , Friday, May 7, 2004

If you’ve just arrived here on a driving holiday you may not be aware of some aspects of driving in Spain. Alex Elgar has some tips to keep you safe and legal on the Spanish roads. 

Drinking and driving: If the police catch you driving with 0.05 per cent alcohol or above, you will be subject to severe penalties such as fines and driving bans. Never drink and drive. Don’t think that Spanish police are more relaxed than Britain in catching offenders - they are not.
Wine and champagne at silly prices make for cheap shopping trips. Remember, however, that five cases of wine are equivalent to having another passenger in the car and you could spend more money on repairs than you save on the shopping. Overloading your car could damage the suspension, burn out the clutch, cause punctures and uneven wear out the tyres.  If you overload your car, you could incur fines and possibly invalidate your insurance.

Fuel: There is no leaded petrol on sale at Spanish service stations, but lead-replacement petrol is available. You are permitted to carry a limited amount of petrol in cans. Diesel (Gasoleo ‘A’ or Gas-oil) is available.

Headlights: When driving abroad, the headlights of right-hand drive vehicles should be adjusted for driving on the right. For older vehicles use adhesive masks on the headlamp glass. If you have a newer vehicle with high intensity (HID), Xenon and many halogen headlamps, check with a dealer for your make of vehicle. An adjustment is not required for two-wheeled vehicles, as the beam pattern is more symmetrical. Headlamp beam converter kits are widely available but don't leave headlamp conversion to the last minute, as a dealer may need to make the adjustment.
Important: Remember to remove the converters as soon as you return to the UK.

Tyres: remember to check your tyres carefully – including the spare. Most countries require a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm over the central three-quarters of the tyre around the whole circumference. However, using tyres with 2mm or less of tread is unadvisable and ideally change any tyres worn down to 3mm before you go.

Holiday travel insurance:
If you are on holiday in Spain for a short time period, remember to make sure that you have adequate breakdown assistance cover.
Although medical costs will normally be incurred if you possess an E1 11 form (available from all main post offices), don't rely exclusively on these arrangements as this cover is not always comprehensive, and the cost of bringing a person back to the UK in the event of illness or death is never covered.

Towing: Under the Spanish Highway code, the towing of motor vehicles is not permitted. Special permits are sometimes issued by the Traffic authorities. A rack secured to the back of a vehicle is allowed provided that the device is licensed for such use or, since the fixture is considered a modification of the vehicle, its installation must be endorsed by an MOT centre as safe for circulation. The device and the bicycle or motorcycle transported may not restrict or hinder in any way the lighting and signalling, nor must visibility of the registration plate be restricted.

Other tips to keep you safe on the road:
Motorcycles: you must use dipped headlights during the day. Crash helmets are compulsory.
Seat belts: children between 3 and 12 and under 1.5 metres tall cannot travel as front-seat passengers unless using a restraint system appropriate to their size. If there is no child restraint, they must use adult seat belts in rear seats. Children under three in the rear must use a restraint system appropriate to their size.
Bulbs and warning triangles: you must carry a set of replacement bulbs and a warning triangle. One warning triangle is compulsory for foreign-registered vehicles, but it is advisable to carry two.
Car thieves – never leave handbags and other attractive items in obvious view even when you are in the car, and never leave belongings in an unattended parked car overnight.  A good idea is to place a Spanish language newspaper in view
Children: Never fit a backward facing child restraint in a seat with a front airbag.
Maintenance: Service your car before departure so that faults can be repaired.
Looking behind you: If your vehicle is not equipped with a rear-view mirror on the left external side, it is advisable to fit one to allow for driving on the right.
Think right: It's easy to forget to drive on the right, particularly after doing something familiar, such as leaving a petrol station, or turning at a T-junction.
A GB sticker – it is compulsory, and failure to comply could result in an on-the-spot fine. However, vehicles made since 2001 will display the GB Euro-symbol (Euro-plates).

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