The Law

I’m not a lawyer, so there are just a few observations here over and above what the British Automobile Association (AA) say about legal aspects of riding in Spain – so blame them not me for inaccuracies.

As well as consulting the N233 web page (widget on the right of your screen) for specific questions and updates you can download a free book with chapter and verse (plus comments from actual traffic police) here.

HMeawnhile here are the highlights to memorize:

Speed limits:
  • Autopistas (Toll roads): normally 120 km/h but some sections have variable limit up to 130 km/h (NB minimum 60 km/h)
  • Autovías (dual carriageways or expressways): normally 120 km/h but some sections have variable limit up to 130 km/h
  • Main roads: 90km/h NB this is a new limit introduced in 2013
  • Secondary roads: 90 km/h (see the road network chapter for the distinction between roads)
  • Urban roads: 50 km/h (NB special areas like schools, etc. 20 km/h)
  • Notes: many junctions on the open road have 70 km/h limit and are a favourite for lurking radar traps. Many towns and cities are applying slower speed restrictions – so look!
Speed traps:
  • Fixed traps are advertised with signs, sometimes several kilometres in advance.
  • Temporary cameras sometimes infest stretches of road, especially at holidays, near race meetings, etc. These are bright orange ‘dummy’ camera boxes  – one of them will be real though!
  • Leeway : 10% – it’s the law – that’s the good news; the bad news is that traps now read other EU plates and your fine will follow you home – eventually!
  • Old fashioned patrol car traps lurk around road junctions – whose restrictions signs might just have fallen off  the night before . . .
  • Unmarked ‘ VASCAR’ patrols exist – as do helicopter patrols which are drawn to obviously barking riding – these often feature on trash TV shows – it’s better than YouTube!
  • Radar detection devices are extraordinarily illegal – you don’t pass Go, you don’t collect £200, you do go straight to jail!
Alcohol and drugs:
  • Limit: blood concentration 0.05% (UK 0.08%)
  • Limit for novice riders (< 2 years): 0.03%
  • Drugs: don’t – they’re all totally illegal!
  • Leeway: none!
  • Notes: breathalyzer tests are used, a blood tests only upon request. Serious over the limit, i.e. > 0.5% result in a mandatory criminal prosecution = the end of you holiday/world trip. Spanish youth, bless ’em, take lots and lots of drugs, so police patrols are very aware of this issue and very hot on testing for estupificantes!
Documents on board:
  • Registration and roadworthiness certificates if appropriate
  • Valid insurance and green card
  • Valid EU or international, driving licence
  • ID: EU citizens should carry their own ID, the Brits, not having one, should have their passport as do Non-EU citizens
Bike and rider(s):
  • Dipped lights required at all times – cars no longer have to carry a spare set of bulbs as modern units are integral make this impossible; it’s not a bad idea for bikes to carry spare bulbs, but I don’t think it’s mandatory
  • Tyre tread: yes, that might be nice! – the rule is 1.6mm tread depth
  • Crash helmets mandatory – on your head, despite urban myths to the contrary!
  • All earphones, headsets, etc. are illegal unless they are integral with the original manufacture, no matter what they’re for and no matter what other advice, including advertisements, that you may see on the blogosphere
  • You should have a Hi-viz jacket on you ready to wear on the highways in case of breakdown – having said that I’ve never known anyone to be asked – but it does make sense.
  • Children under 7 cannot ride pillion, from 7 to 11 they can only ride with their parents or with another person with written authorisation from parents (or guardians I suppose!)
Fines and penalties:
  • Fines can be imposed on the spot, and usually are for foreigners – some patrols even take credit cards! – but otherwise you may be escorted to the nearest ATM. The good news is that there’s a 50% discount for prompt payment – so stop grindin’ yer teeth!
  • Serious offences (grave), including speeds in excess of 50% of the limit, attract penalty points  – but very serious (muy grave) offences invoke criminal, as opposed to civil or summary, proceedings and permanent loss of licence. I guess the implication of this for foreign license holders is complex – beyond the scope of this blog!
  • Various EU countries now have bilateral agreements regarding penalty points, however this is beyond the scope this guide.