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DRIVING

Penalties, speed limits and prohibitions: Spain’s tougher driving laws for 2021

Spain's new Traffic Code came into force on January 2nd 2021, an updated rulebook which includes new speed limits for urban roads, harsher penalties overall as well as limitations to where e-scooters can be ridden.

Penalties, speed limits and prohibitions: Spain's tougher driving laws for 2021
Photos: AFP

On November 11th, Spain's Cabinet of Ministers approved a new draft of its Traffic Code, a decree which stands out for featuring harsher penalties for common driving offences and changes to speed limits on many of its roads.

Although the new rule book became official on January 2 2021, Spain's Directorate General of Traffic has announced that only the clauses relating to e-scooters and similar mobility devices will be applicable from that date, whereas those relating to speed limits and other general road offences will be properly implemented six months after November 11, on May 11.

Points off licence

Drivers in Spain caught using their mobile phone while at the wheel will lose 6 points off a total of 12 on their licences, rather than the current penalty of 3.

Any driver caught using their mobile device a second time will lose an extra 4 points off their licence, instead of 3.

This is part of a stricter approach to the point system for drivers in Spain, “for behaviour which causes the biggest risk while driving”.

“Since 2016, distractions are the main cause of serious accidents,” Spain's Interior Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska said in a press conference on Tuesday, pointing to messaging app WhatsApp as one of these primary disturbances at the wheel.

The penalty for not wearing a seatbelt (or not wearing it properly) in cars and other four-wheeled vehicles will go from 3 to 4 points, as will the penalty for motorcyclists caught not wearing a helmet, or when young children aren't sat in a proper booster or car seat in a vehicle.

Having a device to detect speed cameras installed in a vehicle will incur fines of €500 and the loss of 3 points off the driving licence.

Drivers will be able to recoup two points by carrying out a ‘driving safety course' which is currently being developed.

Lower speed limits

The Spanish government is aiming to reduce road deaths and serious injuries caused by traffic accidents by 50 percent with this new bill.

In order to achieve this, it will limit the speed on one-way roads to 20km/hour, when there is no height difference between the sidewalk and the road.

For roads with one lane in each direction the speed will now be a maximum of 30km/h.

Many provincial capitals across Spain have already rolled out their own legislation limiting the speed on urban roads to 30km/h rather than 50km/h given the long wait for this amendment of Spain's Traffic Code by the national government.

READ MORE: Why you will soon have to drive more slowly in Spanish cities

On roads with two or more lanes of traffic in each direction, the limit remains at 50km/h.

Spain's Interior Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska has said that these new speed limits won't apply to main roads in Spain's big cities.

Vehicles won't be able to surpass the speed limit at all when overtaking on secondary roads, whereas before it was allowed by up to 20km/h when overtaking.

E-scooters banned from pavement

Personal mobility vehicles such as electric scooters or Segways will now have to follow most of the road rules that already exist for four-wheel vehicles in Spain.

The standout change is that riders will no longer be allowed on sidewalks or on pedestrianised areas, nor on motorways, inter-city roads or in urban tunnels. 

The new laws also enshrine earlier proposals by Spain's Directorate General of Traffic such as not being to ride while using a mobile phone, headphones or under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

These types of electrically-powered mobility devices that have taken over many Spanish cities in recent years will now require a driving certificate to be used and have the speed limit has been set at 25km/h.

All the above rules for e-scooter and similar mobility devices will be applicable across Spain from January 2 2021. 

READ MORE: Spain plans crackdown on electric scooters

New rules for beginner drivers

Spain’s updated Traffic Code also has tougher penalties for budding drivers caught cheating with a mobile phone or another device whilst sitting their theory test: a €500 fine and a six-month ban before being to sit the exam again.

It’s also now possible for anyone over the age of 18 to get a driving license for trucks and coaches. In the case of trucks, the license can be obtained from the age of 18 as long as the 280-hour Certificate of Professional Aptitude (CAP) has been passed

For coaches, it will be possible to drive from the age of 18, but without passengers and in a radius of less than 50 kilometres. From the age of 21, with the CAP certificate approved, they will be able to carry passengers.
 

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For members

ENERGY

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

When you move into a new property in Spain you will need to change the account or contract holder over, so that any future water, electricity or gas bills will be in your name. It's not as easy as you may think; here's how you go about it.

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

Changing the name on your utility bills and the payment details should in theory be relatively straightforward, however you may come up against some common problems which can make the change pretty complicated.

Firstly, you will need to find out which energy companies have been contracted for your property.

You can do this by asking the previous owner themselves, contacting your landlord if you’re renting or asking your estate agent to find out for you.

When it comes to water, this should be provided by your local council or city, so you won’t need to contact the previous occupant for this one. 

How do I change the title over?

When you first move in, remember to note down the numbers on the gas, electricity and water meters, so you can give these to the utility companies and they can record how much you should owe, instead of having to pay for the previous occupant’s consumption as well.

Next, you will then need to contact the energy company supplying your property or water provider and ask for a cambio de titular a nombre del arrendatario o comprador (ask for a change of ownership in the name of the renter or buyer).

The process should be completely free for electricity and gas, but in some cities, you may need to pay a deposit for changing the title of the water bill, which you should get back when you vacate the property. The deposit can be anywhere between €50 and €100.

Contacting the energy company by phone may be the best way to make sure everything is done correctly, but some companies also have online forms where you can request a title change. When it comes to water, most cities will have water offices you can visit or specific e-mail addresses if you can’t contact them over the phone. 

There are a few pieces of information you’ll need to have on hand before you contact the company. These are:

  • The full name of the previous person who had the bills in their name
  • Your NIE / DNI
  • The address of the property
  • The date you moved in
  • The CUPS code (not needed for water)
  • Your padrón certificate (for water only)
  • A copy of the deeds of the property or rental contract
  • Your bank details

With all this information, they should be able to change the name over on the account relatively quickly, so that any future energy bills will go directly to you.

At this time, you can also change your tariff or amount of energy contracted to suit your individual needs.

How do I find the CUPS code?

The CUPS code or Código Unificado del Punto de Suministro (Universal Supply Point Code) is a number that identifies each individual property that receives electricity or gas. The number doesn’t change, so you could ask the previous occupant for this as it will be written on their energy bills.

Alternatively, if this isn’t possible you can contact your energy distributor – these are assigned by area and stay the same. By giving them your name, address and ID number such as NIE, they will be able to give you the CUPS code associated with your property.

What if I want to change to a new energy company?

If you’d prefer not to contract the energy company that the previous owner had, you can also choose to go with a new one. In this case, you will still need all of the same information and numbers as above, but you will contact the energy provider of your choice and the type of tariff you want to pay.

How long will it take to change the name over?

It can take between 1 and 20 days for the bills to be changed over into your name. The previous occupant will receive their final bill and then you will receive the new one from the date you moved in.

What are some of the problems I might come up against?

The most common problem is when the previous occupant is not up to date on paying their bills and has some outstanding debt. In this case, if you try to change the title over into your name, you will also be inheriting the pervious owner’s debt.

In this case, you will have to get the previous occupant to pay their outstanding bill before you can change it over into your name. If you have problems getting them to pay their bill, then you can show proof of the date you moved in by sending in a copy of your deeds or rental contract. This should in theory allow for the transfer of ownership without having to take on the debt, however it can be tricky process, often calling the energy company multiple times and waiting for verification of the proof.

What if the energy services have been cut off?

In the case that the property has been uninhabited for some time, the previous owners may have deactivated or cut off the utilities. If this is the case, then you will need to call the energy providers to activate them again. This will typically involve paying several fees to be able to get them up and running. The amount you pay will depend on the energy distributor and where the property is based in Spain. 

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