For members


What you need to know about Spain’s new road laws

Spain is planning to lower speeds and crack down on mobile phone use at the wheel with heftier penalties. Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming changes.

What you need to know about Spain’s new road laws
Photos: AFP (lead), DGT

Spain’s transport authority the DGT (Directorate General of Traffic) is set to roll out a number of measures that they hope will address “road rage” and the lack of mindfulness on Spanish roads.

Their main goal is to continue to reduce road deaths in Spain, after 1,173 people lost their lives in 2018, 25 fewer than the previous year.

The following changes have not yet been inscribed in Spanish road law books but are likely to be approved in the first semester of this year and put into action soon after.

Here’s what we know so far.

Speed drop on secondary roads

Cars and motorbikes on Spain’s carreteras convencionales will have to drop their speed from 100km/h to 90km/h in most cases. Larger vehicles including buses, vans and trucks will now have to drive at 80km/h.

Carreteras convencionales, high-capacity urban roads a step down from motorways (with lanes in both directions, with and without separating barriers) are where 77 percent of fatal road accidents take place in Spain, according to 2018 DGT data.

If there is a barrier separating both directions on one of these arterial roads, the speed can be maintained at 100km/h.

But if there isn’t, a driver caught speeding at 20km/h over the speed limit will have points deducted from their license, rather than the previous 30km/h limit.

For example, anyone caught driving at 111km/h would have two points docked off their licence and have to pay a €300 fine.

The DGT will also install more speed traps and recruit more Civil Guards as traffic officers on Spanish roads in 2019.

A total of 7,000 roads in Spain will change their speed limit, so keep your eyes peeled. 

Harsher penalties for mobile users and seatbelt evaders

Anyone caught using their mobile phone at the wheel will have 6 points deducted from their license rather than the previous 3.

Drivers in Spain have 8 points on their licenses if they’re learners. After three years of experience, it’s upped to 12 points and if the driver hasn’t committed any road infractions during that period they’re eligible for 15 points.

Not wearing a seatbelt, helmet (for motorbikes) or installing a safety seat for children will now result in the loss of 4 points instead of the previous 3.

More lenient point system in return for road safety classes 

Spain’s road authority wants it to be obligatory for anyone getting their license to have to attend specific road safety classes – as is the case in 70 percent of countries in Europe – rather than just theory lessons.

Their need to promote consciousness on the part of reckless drivers is also evidenced by their plans to get a greater number of them to sit 12 to 24-hour road and speed awareness courses, depending on the severity of their actions at the wheel.

As a reward of sorts, drivers will be able to recover 8 points on their “carnet” rather the current 6 if they complete the course successfully.

The DGT also wants the time period over which offending drivers can recover all their points to be set to two years, rather than 2 for serious infringements and 3 for very serious incidents.

Cities look to put breaks on speed

The DGT along with many city halls across Spain are calling for a speed reduction in cities from the traditional 50km/h to 30km/h.

The new law would apply to one-way streets and roads with one lane in each direction.

Spain’s traffic authority has presented a public enquiry into the law change, with the suggestion being that each municipality decides if they want to drop the speed in their cities and towns.

For members


Can the UK’s Blue Badge for disabled parking be used in Spain?

The UK’s Blue Badge scheme allows disabled drivers to park in special parking spaces closer to their destination, but can it be used if you're on holiday in Spain or living in Spain? The Local has spoken with the British Embassy in Madrid to find out.

Can the UK's Blue Badge for disabled parking be used in Spain?

The Blue Badge for disabled drivers issued by UK authorities features a symbol of a person in a wheelchair and should be displayed in the front of your car if you’re parked in a special disabled spot.

But can you use the same badge in your car in Spain?

When the UK was still part of the EU, these disabled badges for parking could be used throughout the bloc, but since January 1st 2021 when Brexit officially came into force, there have been some doubt regarding this. 

In other words, some disabled drivers visiting Spain who wish to rent a car or British residents living in Spain with UK disability cards are now uncertain as to whether their badges will be recognised here or not. 

In Spain, on roads and in car parks, parking places reserved for disabled people are marked with a wheelchair symbol.

The EU has its own parking card for people with disabilities and the recognition of the UK’s badge has always been an informal agreement between governments.

The advice from the UK government has always been for UK Blue Badge holders to check locally within the country they are travelling to, before using it abroad. 

The British Embassy in Madrid told The Local: “This advice did not change following the UK’s exit from the EU and to date no EU/EEA nation has specifically stated that it will not recognise a UK-issued disabled parking card”. 

However, the rules and advice are slightly different depending on if you are visiting Spain or living here. 

The UK government website states “You can use your UK Blue Badge when travelling in some European Union (EU) countries, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland”.

However, under the list of EU countries where you can use the UK Blue Badge, the UK government says Spain is “undecided” and asks drivers to check with the Spanish Embassy for more information.

This is causing a lot of uncertainty among UK Blue Badge holders and has sparked many debates on social media groups used by Brits in Spain. 

The British Embassy in Madrid has confirmed to The Local that: “Where the table states ‘undecided’, that doesn’t indicate that a particular nation has stated they will not recognise a UK issued parking card, merely that the UK doesn’t have a specific notification of reciprocity of the UK’s goodwill gesture”. 

This means that while Spain has not officially said that it will not recognise a disabled blue parking badge issued in the UK, there is no reciprocal agreement in place. 

While many British people visiting Spain say that they are continuing to use them without problem, others are reporting that Spanish authorities in some areas will not accept them anymore.

One member of the N332 Facebook group, (a group created by Spanish traffic police officers and volunteers) wrote: “To be honest I use my blue badge in Spain and it has not caused me any issues since Brexit. I think as long as a badge is displayed in the parking spaces no one will say or do anything”.

However, another commentator said that their friend was fined for using a UK blue badge in Spain.

According to the Spanish authorities, fines of up to €200 can be handed out for those who park in a disabled spot without the proper permit, although that’s not to say that a UK Blue Badge is not a proper permit.

So if you’re visiting Spain and have a disabled parking card, you should contact the local authorities first to find out if you can use your UK-issued parking card, otherwise you technically could be using it at your own risk and could be fined.  

In some places in Spain, you may find that authorities turn a blind eye, while in others may tell you that your badge is not valid.

Can you use your UK Blue Badge if you’re living in Spain?

The UK government website states: “If you have a UK Blue Badge and live in Spain, you must return it to the original UK issuing authority. You can apply for a new Spanish disabled parking card. The process is different in each region of Spain. Contact your local town hall or social services department for further information”.

So those who live in Spain should apply for the equivalent of the UK’s blue badge here. This is called the Tarjeta acreditativa de discapacidad or Tarjeta de grado de discapacidad, depending on where you live.

Examples of different disabled parking cards issued by Spain’s regions. Image: Fundación Once

The not-for-profit project Support in Spain warns that it can be a lengthy process to apply for the Spanish equivalent and that many have been waiting months or even years for their cards to be issued. This has left many foreign disabled residents in Spain in a difficult situation.

Another member of the N332 Facebook group wrote: “Why does it take so long to get a blue badge in Spain? My husband has advanced Parkinson’s and dementia. We have been waiting almost a year and our town hall tells me this is normal”. 

How to apply for Spain’s disabled parking card?

Firstly, in order to apply, you will need to make an appointment with your doctor in Spain to certify that you have a degree of disability that warrants a disabled parking card. Typically, applicants must prove that they have a disability of at least 33 percent in order to be eligible for the Spanish disabled parking card.

Your doctor may also need to refer you to a specialist. Getting this disability certificate, or reconocimiento de discapacidad as it’s called in Spanish, is the reason the process takes so long. This certificate is the same document you’ll need in order to apply for disability benefits in Spain too.

As mentioned above, the process of applying is slightly different, depending on what region of Spain you live in. Typically, you will have to go to your local Equality and Social Policies Department (Departamento de Igualdad y Políticas Sociales) or at your local town hall (ayuntamiento) and fill out the necessary paperwork.

This will then need to be submitted along with your disability certificate and any notes from your doctors, before your application can be processed. 

Those who are worried about how long the process will take should contact their local town hall to find out the average time frame in their area.