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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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DRIVING IN SPAIN

Driving in Spain: the 10 questions everyone gets wrong on their theory test in 2022

Getting your driving licence in Spain is challenging enough as it is, let alone if you’re a foreigner who isn’t fluent in Spanish. To help you pass, we’ve put together the questions that most people got wrong in their theory test in Spain in 2022.

Driving in Spain: the 10 questions everyone gets wrong on their theory test in 2022

In order to pass your theory test in Spain, you will have to answer 30 questions and if you get more than three answers wrong you will not pass and have to sit it again.

While the option of taking the DGT’s theory exam (examen teórico) in English is available, some English speakers in Spain have said that the translations aren’t always spot on and can be confusing.

It’s true that written Spanish can be more long-winded than English, but if you’re getting your driving licence in Spain it probably means you’re settling here, so learning the right Spanish driving vocab, and Spanish in general is probably the right way to go.

The wording of questions and potential answers in Spain’s theory test is often complex and can be misleading even for native speakers.

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The following are the questions that most people who sat their theory test in Spain in 2022 got wrong, according to driving consultancy firm PONS Seguridad Vial, who reviewed information from 2,300 driving schools.

We’ve included the questions and answers in Spanish, their English translation and an explanation as to why many people get it wrong. 

They may not necessarily help you become a better driver, but knowing which questions to watch out for may well help you pass. Here goes!

1. Esta señal

A) Indica una vía reservada exclusivamente para ciclos.

B) Indica una vía reservada para peatones y ciclos.

C) Prohíbe a las bicicletas circular por la vía.

(Translation) What does this road sign indicate?

A) Indicates a path reserved exclusively for bicycles.

B) Indicates a path reserved for pedestrians and bicycles. (correct answer)

C) It prohibits bicycles from circulating on the road.

Explanation: This sign indicates the existence of a path for pedestrians and cycles, separate from normal road traffic, and that runs through open spaces, parks, gardens or forests. The image of the bicycle is slightly misleading, and you shouldn’t confuse it for the circular sign with the blue background and this same white silhouette because this sign is exclusively for cycles.

2. Al salir marcha atrás de un estacionamiento con su vehículo, el cual dispone del sistema de alerta de tráfico cruzado, debe saber que este sistema…

A) Ayudará al conductor esquivando el obstáculo en el mismo momento en que lo detecte.

B) Tomará el control del vehículo deteniéndolo inmediatamente cuando detecte un vehículo aproximándose.

C) Emitirá un aviso sonoro y/o visual cuando detecte un vehículo aproximándose. 

(Translation) When backing out of a parking lot, if your vehicle has the cross traffic alert system, you should know that this system…

A) Will help the driver by avoiding the obstacle the moment it detects it.

B) Will take control of the vehicle by stopping it immediately when it detects an approaching vehicle.

C) Will issue an audible and/or visual warning when it detects an approaching vehicle. (correct answer)

Explanation: Cross Traffic Alert System monitors detect traffic when reversing out a line of parked vehicles. If it detects an approaching vehicle, an audible and/or visual warning will be issued.

3. Un tractor que arrastra un remolque, ¿qué velocidad máxima no debe rebasar fuera de poblado?

A) 25 kilómetros por hora.

B) 40 kilómetros por hora.

C) 70 kilómetros por hora.

Photo: Mangan2002/Wikipedia

(Translation) What maximum speed can a tractor pulling a trailer not exceed outside urban areas?

A) 25 kilometres per hour (correct answer)

B) 40 kilometres per hour.

C) 70 kilometres per hour.

Explanation: Vehicles that are deemed ‘especiales’ in Spain (tractors and other vehicles used for building and agricultural purposes, as well as vehicles with an attachment or trailer).

With B licences, special agricultural vehicles can be driven. The maximum speed of these vehicles as a general rule is 40 km/h but this is reduced to 25 km/h when they are towing a trailer as it makes the vehicle more unstable.

4. Si está en posesión del permiso de la clase A1, con un año y medio de antigüedad, y obtiene el permiso B, ¿cuál es la tasa máxima de alcohol permitida conduciendo su turismo?

Photo: Miguel Ángel Ramón/Pixabay

A) 0,15 gramos por litro en sangre.

B) 0,30 gramos por litro de sangre.

C) 0,50 gramos por litro en sangre.

(Translation) If you are in possession of the A1 driver’s permit that’s one and a half years old, and you obtain the B permit, what is the maximum blood alcohol level for driving your car?

A) 0.15 grammes per litre of blood.

B) 0.30 grammes per litre of blood. (correct answer)

C) 0.50 grammes per litre of blood.

Explanation: The maximum blood alcohol level for drivers for the two years after obtaining their first driving license is: 0.3 g / l (in blood) and 0.15 mg / l (breathalyser). Whereas learner drivers have to drive with the L sign in their car for a year, their blood alcohol content limit as learners is applicable for the first two years from obtaining their licence.

5. En una intersección sin señalización expresa, la norma general de preferencia de paso es…

A) Ceder el paso a los vehículos más rápidos, ciclistas y peatones.

B) Ceder el paso a los vehículos que circulen por la izquierda.

C) Ceder el paso a los vehículos que se aproximen por la derecha.

Cars at a junction. Photo: PxHere

(Translation) At an intersection without express signage, the general rule of right-of-way is…

A) Give way to faster vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.

B) Give way to vehicles driving on the left.

C) Give way to vehicles approaching from the right. (correct answer)

Explanation: At intersections where there is no sign that regulates right-of-way, you are obliged to give way to vehicles approaching from the right. So if there’s a sign, do what the sign says and if there isn’t, give to vehicles approaching from the right.

6. ¿Qué efectos positivos tiene el sistema Start-Stop del vehículo?

A) Reduce las emisiones y el consumo del vehículo.

B) Frena el vehículo antes una señal de stop.

C) Reduce el consumo del vehículo, solamente.

Photo: TheRedBurn/Wikipedia

(Translation) What positive features does a vehicle’s start-stop system have?

A) It reduces emissions and consumption of the vehicle. (correct answer)

B) It brakes the vehicle before a stop sign.

C) It only reduces the consumption of the vehicle.

Explanation: Some vehicles have a start-stop season that reduces emissions by up to 5 percent and consumption by up to 15 percent. Some drivers believe the system stops and starts “too many times” and “causes premature engine deterioration” but this isn’t true. 

7. ¿Qué debe hacer si el resultado de una inspección ITV es desfavorable?

A) Llevar el vehículo al taller en una grúa obligatoriamente y volver a pasar la inspección en un plazo inferior a dos meses.

B) Llevar el vehículo al taller para repararlo y volver a pasar la inspección en un plazo inferior a un mes.

C) Llevar el vehículo al taller para repararlo y volver a pasar la inspección en un plazo inferior a dos meses.

The ITV inspection in Spain is similar to the MOT in the UK. Photo: Damir Kopezhanov / Unsplash

(Translation) What should you do if the result of an ITV inspection is unfavourable?

A) Take the vehicle to a garage in a tow truck to undergo the inspection again within a period of fewer than two months.

B) Take the vehicle to the garage to repair it and undergo the inspection again within a period of less than one month.

C) Take the vehicle to the garage to repair it and undergo the inspection again within a period of fewer than two months. (correct answer)

Explanation: It is not necessary to stop driving your car and get a tow truck to take it to the garage for repair, however, you must do it within fewer than two months, not one month. 

8. Generalmente, en las motocicletas el freno trasero se acciona con..

A) el pie derecho.

B) el pie izquierdo.

C) la mano izquierda.

This question on motorcycles often trips people up. Photo: Harley-Davidson / Unsplash

(Translation) Generally, on motorcycles, the rear brake is activated with…

A) The right foot. (correct answer)

B) The left foot. 

C) The left hand. 

Explanation: If you’re not familiar with driving a motorcycle, this question may throw you a bit. Generally, if you want to break on a motorcycle, you will use your right foot. It’s important to be aware of other types of vehicles on the road with you. 

9. ¿Qué características tiene una bicicleta de pedales con pedaleo asistido?

A) Tiene un motor con potencia no superior a 0,5 kW cuya velocidad se interrumpe antes de alcanzar los 25 km/h o si se deja de pedalear.

B) Es una bicicleta con motor considerada como un ciclomotor de dos ruedas

C) Tiene un motor eléctrico auxiliar de hasta 250 W cuya velocidad se interrumpe antes de alcanzar los 25 km/h o si se deja de pedalear.

Bike with assisted pedalling. Photo: KBO Bike / Unsplash

(Translation) What characteristics does a pedal bicycle with assisted pedalling have?

A) It has a motor with power not exceeding 0.5 kW whose speed is interrupted before reaching 25 km/h or if pedalling has stopped.

B) It is a motorised bicycle considered to be a two-wheeled moped. 

C) It has an auxiliary electric motor of up to 250 W whose speed is interrupted before reaching 25 km/h or if you stop pedalling. (correct answer) 

Explanation: Like the question above, drivers may not be familiar with the characteristics of e-bikes, so you must make sure to study other vehicles that may be on the road with you. 

10. Además del airbag frontal, ¿existen otros tipos de airbag?

A) No.

B) Sí, los frontales de conductor y acompañante, los laterales de piernas y de techo o cortina.

C) Sí, los laterales.

Where are the airbags located in a car? Photo: Julian Hochgesang / Unsplash

(Translation) Besides the front airbag, are there other types of airbags?

A) No. 

B) Yes, the front ones for the driver and passenger, the sides for the legs and the roof or curtain. (correct answer) 

C) Yes, the sides.

Explanation: Drivers may not be aware of all the safety features of their cars, so it’s important to study and learn exactly what they have. 

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