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DRIVING

REMINDER: Why you now have to drive at 30km/h on most roads in Spain

On May 11th 2021, Spain’s new speed limits for urban roads come into effect across the whole country. Here’s what you need to remember to not get into trouble with Spanish traffic police. 

REMINDER: Why you now have to drive at 30km/h on most roads in Spain
Photo: JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT/AFP

Spain’s new speed limits have been in the pipeline for over a year, they were approved by the Spanish Cabinet last November and now, within a matter of weeks, they will come into force across the entire territory. 

What are the new speed limits?

From May 11th 2021, roads in Spain with one lane in each direction will go from having a general speed limit of 50km/hour to a maximum of 30km/h. Single lane roads with one-way traffic where the pavement is raised above the road will also have a new speed limit of 30km/h.

On single one-way lanes and double lane roads with two-way traffic where the pavement and the road are at the same level, the speed limit will be reduced even further, down to 20km/h. 

Roads with two lanes or more of traffic in each direction (minimum four total) will keep the speed limit of 50km/h (except for vehicles carrying dangerous goods, for which the limit is 40km/h).

Spain’s Interior Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska stressed back in November that these new speed limits won’t apply to main roads in Spain’s big cities (for example, Madrid’s Paseo de la Castellana).

As a relevant sidenote, vehicles will also no longer be able to surpass the speed limit at all when overtaking on secondary roads in Spain, whereas before it was allowed by up to 20km/h when overtaking.

What roads will the new speed limits apply to?

It will apply tovías urbanas, which can be translated as urban roads in English, but really the terminology refers to “any roads that make up the internal communications network of a settlement, as long as they are not through roads (travesías) or are part of an arterial network”, according to Spain’s Directorate General of Traffic (DGT).

In essence, regardless of whether it’s a road inside a village in the countryside or a road inside a big city where the limit is currently 50km/h, the new speed limits apply. 

The vast majority of the approximately 165,600 kilometres of tarmac that form part of Spain’s road network are vías urbanas, whereas travesías such as motorways and dual carriageways make up roughly only 17,228km. 

So undoubtedly this is a decision which will have a considerable impact on daily driving for most conductores (drivers) in the country.

What are the penalties and fines for going over the new speed limits?

Failure by drivers to comply with the new speed limits on Spain’s urban roads will be considered a serious or very serious road offence by traffic authorities. 

Fines will range from €100 to €600 and the loss of up to six points of the driver’s license, depending on how fast they were going.

So for example, on a two-lane road with traffic in both directions where the maximum speed will be 30 km/h, the penalty for driving between 31 and 50 km/h will be €100.

Photo: Doris Metternich/Pixabay

If the driver exceeds the 50 km/h mark but doesn’t reach 60km/h, it will result in a €300 fine and the loss of two points off the driver’s licence. 

Driving between 61 and 70 km/h will cost the offender €400 and four points; and speeding at between 71 and 80 km /h will lead to a €500 fine and the loss of six points. 

Very serious speeding offenses are those that exceed the speed limit by more than 50 km/h, resulting in a €600 penalty and the loss of six points. 

Exceeding the speed limit in urban areas by 60 km/h is a crime against road safety included in article 379 of Spain’s Penal Code and punishable “with a prison sentence of three to six months, or community service for 30 to 90 days, and in all cases a ban from driving vehicles and mopeds for one to four years”. 

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Why is Spain lowering the speed limit on these roads?

Dropping the speed limit from 50km/ down to 30km/ reduces the chances of dying after being run over from 90 percent down to 10 percent, road accident studies have proven. 

That’s the chief reason why the DGT has been pushing for the new limit to be introduced.

“The real news is why have we taken so long to do this,” DGT head Pere Navarro told journalists recently, stressing that the goal is to reduce road deaths and serious injuries caused by traffic accidents by 50 percent with the new limits.

In fact, 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.

The DGT deputy head has stated that “something must be done” to address the 69 percent accident rise caused by delivery vehicles in Spanish cities in recent years, with Covid lockdowns and restrictions only serving to increase the proliferation of these commercial activities. But the spike in accidents isn’t just caused by delivery vans.

“Moving around when there are scooters, bicycles, motorcycles and e-scooters – which are now all used as delivery vehicles – is not easy,” DGT deputy director Susana Gómez said in 2020.

“Addressing the issue of ‘last-mile logistics in Spanish cities is of the utmost interest to the DGT, as is finding a way of putting pedestrians first.”

As seen in the video above tweeted by the DGT, this priority for pedestrians is central to the new speed limits, as a reduction of traffic and the dangers that vehicles pose could mean more central roads in Spanish cities are pedestrianised.

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Member comments

  1. Is anyone in favor of this? Seems absurd to drop the limit by half or nearly half in zones that don’t carry increased risk.

  2. To drive at 30kph, my car doesn’t get out of third gear. Cars were not designed to drive at such low speeds and those people who live in towns would rarely be able to get into fourth gear.

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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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