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DRIVING

Driving in Spain: The new device traffic authorities want you to keep in your car

The warning triangles drivers in Spain have to carry in their cars in case of a breakdown are being replaced with these emergency lights from July 2021.

Driving in Spain: The new device traffic authorities want you to keep in your car
Photos: Help Flash

2021 has brought with it plenty of changes for drivers in Spain, from the speed drop to 30km/h on most urban roads, to new fines for drivers distracted by phones even if they’re not using them and updates to the rules for overtaking cyclists

But one other change to Spain’s Traffic Code which came into force on July 1st 2021 is the introduction of a new device as part of any car’s accessory kit.

Called la luz de emergencia V-16 (V-16 emergency light) in Spanish, it’s a pocket-sized light which is meant to be kept in the glovebox and when there’s a breakdown or emergency forcing the vehicle to stop, it’s placed on the roof of the car.

This allows drivers to alert others that they are stationary without having to get out of their vehicles and place a warning triangle behind and often in front of their car on the road, or put on a reflecting yellow vest before getting out.

It’s considered a much safer alternative by road experts, as drivers don’t risk being run over by any oncoming traffic.

Twenty people lost their lives in Spain while placing their emergency triangles on the road in 2020.

Photo: Rico Loeb/Pixabay

As of July 1st 2021, the V-16 emergency light is supported by Spain’s Traffic Code, although it won’t be obligatory for drivers to have one in their vehicles until January 1st 2026. 

However, Spain’s DGT traffic authority has changed the wording of its official advice for what should be done in the event of a breakdown to incorporate situations in which the use of the emergency light is allowed but not the use of emergency triangles. 

In the event that your car breaks down, the triangles should not to be placed on the ground if to do so you have to walk along the hard shoulder or along one of the lanes of the road. 

That means drivers can only get out of their vehicles to put the emergency triangles down if they can walk along the sidewalk/pavement or outside of the road in the case of secondary roads.

Previously, Article 130.3 of Spain’s Traffic Code didn’t give these details, stating that placing down the triangles was only discouraged “if the traffic conditions do not allow for it”.

The DGT is also no longer recommending that triangles be placed 50 metres away from the vehicle to be visible from 100 metres away. 

What this ultimately means for drivers is that unless they have the new V-16 emergency light, there will be situations in which they won’t be able to warn others of their breakdown.

How does the V-16 emergency light work?

This battery-powered device emits a yellowish LED light in short bursts which can be seen from one kilometre away in all directions.

It also uses magnets or similar features to easily stick to the roof of the car. This must be done from the inside of the vehicle.

Any portable light device won’t do, it has to be an approved (homologada) light that also includes a geolocator that sends updates to the DGT cloud every 100 seconds. This in turn allows Spanish road authorities to warn other drivers on traffic information displays along the road that a vehicle has broken down up ahead. 

The device doubles up as torch as well, as it has a function which emits constant light, in case you need to change a wheel or check your car’s engine at night.

Spain’s new emergency light was initially being sold online by a company called Help Flash for around €22, but there are now other brands selling V-16 lights that have been reportedly approved by the DGT.

Regular emergency triangles can still be used in situations which allow for it, but these are also being slowly replaced by the virtual V-27 triangle, an app in new vehicles which sends information about a breakdown to others that are connected to the online network (not compulsory).

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DRIVING IN SPAIN

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. 

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