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DRIVING

EXPLAINED: The rules for driving around roundabouts in Spain

Find out if you know how to drive properly around roundabouts in Spain (you could be steering clear of a €200 fine).

EXPLAINED: The rules for driving around roundabouts in Spain
One of Barcelona's huge roundabouts (rotondas in Spanish). Photo: Benjamin Voros/Unsplash

There are 38,000 roundabouts in Spain, making it the third European nation with the highest density per capita of this type of intersection (behind neighbours France and Portugal).

That means that if you drive in España, you’re pretty much certain to have to navigate your way round more than the odd “rotonda”.

Spaniards are by and large renowned for being good drivers, with less of a bad reputation than their Italian or Greek counterparts (not that stereotypes always ring true). 

However, one recurring complaint among foreigners in Spain is the locals’ haphazard understanding of the rules for driving inside a roundabout. Admittedly, this isn’t something that any particular nation is famous for having a complete grasp of.

More importantly, something that Spaniards and foreign residents most likely share in equal amounts is the fact that they don’t know that not driving the right way inside a Spanish roundabout can land them a €200 fine. 

Q&A: How to pass Spain’s driving test and get a Spanish licence

And it’s for good reason, as in the past five years in Spain the number of fatal car accidents in roundabouts has doubled. In urban areas, the rate of overall accidents has increased a worrying 86 percent according the European Drivers Association (AEA). 

The most common traffic violation according to Spanish police involves drivers ‘taking shortcuts’ by dangerously exiting and cutting through the lane of drivers who are in the other roundabout lanes. 

But that’s not all. According to logistical analysis company Foremaster, 75 percent of Spaniards don’t know what the purpose of each roundabout lane is and 60 percent of them don’t indicate properly in roundabouts either.

So how do I drive properly in a roundabout in Spain?

The rules are in fact no different to those of the majority of countries around the world, with the exception of course of those where you drive on the left. 

Firstly, you give way to those already driving inside the roundabout and when it’s clear you drive in through the right, as in anti-clockwise. 

Upon entering, you must position yourself in the lane that suits the exit you’re going to take. You should not indicate upon entering the “rotonda”. 

If you’re planning to take the first or second exit, stick to the outside lane and indicate to the right when you approach your exit (only if second exit).

Spain’s Directorate General of Traffic actually suggests that you don’t indicate to the right if you’re taking the first exit as it might confuse other drivers. 

If you’re going to take the third exit, choose the inside or middle lane and start moving over to the outside lane when passing the second exit, checking your blind spot for oncoming cars that aren’t following the rules.

Indicate when you’re getting close to your exit. You should not indicate to the left to indicate that you are still circumnavigating the roundabout even though this is a common practice worldwide. 

If you’re taking the fourth exit (often a 180-degree turn) enter the roundabout and head to the inside lane.

If there are three lanes, drive into the third (inside) lane. If there are two, take the inside. As soon as you pass the third exit, carefully make your way into the outside lane and indicate that you’re heading out of the fourth exit. 

Generally speaking, you must always exit a roundabout from the outside lane unless there’s a road sign that states otherwise. 

A cyclist or group of cyclists must always be given priority. 

The following diagram where each car’s trajectory is labelled bien (right) or mal (wrong) illustrates even further how to behave in Spanish roundabouts. 

Anything else to watch out for?

Spanish drivers don’t always give way to traffic already on roundabouts when entering them, so keep your eyes peeled at all times. 

Tailgating can sometimes be a problem in Spain as well so make sure you don’t make any sudden movements in roundabouts without first indicating in order to avoid possible collisions from the cars or in other lanes.

Under no circumstances should you cut the course of other vehicles using the roundabout in order to exit from it. Just go round again until your route is clear. 

Technically the roundabout’s inside lane can also be used to overtake. Use your indicator accordingly if you choose to do so.

Remember as well that in many city roundabouts, there are zebra crossings just after the exits, so keep your eyes peeled for traffic lights and pedestrians.  

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LIFE IN SPAIN

What’s the law on guns in Spain?

Spain has some of Europe's strictest gun laws but there are many weapons - both legal and illegal - in the country. Here is a breakdown of the rules and reality of gun ownership in Spain.

What's the law on guns in Spain?

When looking over the Atlantic to the US of A, we often think of their gun laws as strange, foreign, and in the midst of mass shootings, outright crazy. It’s easy to assume that there are no guns in Spain – that that’s a distinctly American thing, and not something we worry about in Europe.

But the reality is that there are guns in Spain. According to 2016 data from by Spain’s Central Inspectorate for Arms and Explosives (ICAE), Spain has over three million registered arms, belonging to 1.1 million civilians, most of whom have ostensibly bought their weapons for hunting, target shooting or as collector’s items.

Some 8,000 Spanish civilians are also authorised to carry a gun for self-defense after providing proof they are at risk.

Inventory records from ICAE show that Andalusia has the most guns in Spain, over 600,000, most of which are for hunting – while Melilla has the least with 399. 

Although very difficult to gage for obvious reasons, in 2017 the Geneva Small Arms Survey estimated that Spain was home to as many as 780,000 illegally owned firearms, but that number could be higher.

But what are the rules? Here’s what you need to know about gun laws in Spain.

The law

Very simply put, you cannot carry or possess firearms in Spain without an official license or special authorisation (more on that later) from the state. 

In fact, Article 149.26 of the Spanish constitution makes very clear that Spanish state alone (government and relevant police and security authorities) has exclusive control over the production, sale, possession and use of firearms and explosives in Spain.

Exceptions aside, which will be touched on below, the Spanish law in effect deems guns sporting equipment only, and sees (very few) reasons why you might reasonably need one for non-sporting purposes. Guns are available for shooting and, in what is a very popular Spanish pasatiempo, hunting.

READ ALSO How to stay safe during hunting season in rural Spain

How to get a gun in Spain

Unlike getting a gun in the United States, where arms are almost treated like chocolates or chewing gums to be picked up while waiting at the supermarket checkout, getting your hands on a weapon in Spain is much more difficult, and involves a laborious process of official tests, interviews and, of course, waiting.

To get a gun in Spain, you must:

  1. Be 18 years old.
  2. Pass a theory exam which includes questions on weapons and, crucially, gun laws and regulations in Spain. You must get at least 16/20 questions right in order to pass.
  3. Undergo and pass a psychological assessment.
  4. Once you’ve passed the psychological assessment and received the results, then begins a period (that can last up to six months) of practical training and tests. These are always carried out at legally designated shooting fields and ranges, supervised, and designed to tests the applicant’s aptitude with a weapon.
  5. If you pass that, you must undergo eye and hearing tests.

What are the different licenses?

  1. Licence A: All kinds of weapons except automatic and wartime weapons. This license is exclusively for members of the state and security forces.
  2. Licence B: Self-defence, allowing the possession and use of handguns under special government authorisation.
  3. Licence C: Ownership and possession of handguns in the context of private security duties.
  4. Licence D: Licence specifically intended for big-game hunting allowing the use of rifles and shotguns.
  5. Licence E: License specifically intended for small-game hunting, including shotguns.
  6. Licence F: Focused on the use and possession of sport weapons and Olympic shooting sports, including pistols and carbines.
  7. Licence AE: Specifically for collectors.
  8. License AEM (Autorización especial de Menores) A special license for children age 14 or over who want to hunt under the supervision of a parent or guardian with their own license. This AEM license is particularly difficult to obtain.

Buying and selling guns

Weapons can be sold between people with legally obtained licences in Spain, although not directly. All sales are supervised by Spain’s Guardia Civil police, and the seller must surrender the arm to the authorities before the buyer collects it on Guardia Civil premises.

Weapons can also be lent to another person for a maximum of 15 days if all the appropriate paperwork is done with the Guardia Civil and the other person also has a legally obtained license.

Ownership obligations

Legal gun owners in Spain have some responsibilities, namely keeping the firearm in a secure place and to prevent theft or loss, and to present the gun to the Guardia Civil whenever they ask.

Gun owners that lose or have their firearm stolen must report it immediately to the authorities, and if their license is lost they must surrender the weapon until new paperwork is arranged.

Self-defence 

There are believed to be as many as 8,000 Spaniards with special permission to carry guns for self-defence – those declared “at risk” and issued with a B license by Spanish police.

Applicants must prove they are at risk or fear for their life, and it is believed that the majority of these special B license holdees are high-profile public figures like politicians or football players, or those who might come into contact with criminals, such as gun-sellers, judges or magistrates, and former police and military personnel. The weapons must be concealed. 

There has been debate in recent years over the use of firearms for self-protection in Spain, with notable cases of gun owners jailed for shooting in self-defence, including a man in his 80s who was sent to jail after shooting an assailant who broke into his home in Tenerife and attacked his wife. 

READ ALSO Far-right Vox party wants to loosen Spain’s gun laws

It has been a recurring populist talking point of far-right party Vox, with leader Santiago Abascal calling for the loosening of gun control in Spain. 

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