Spain eyes fines for drivers distracted by phones, even if they’re not using them

Spain eyes fines for drivers distracted by phones, even if they're not using them
Sending someone a short voice message or reading a message could soon cost drivers points off their licences and €200 fines.Photo: Roman Pohorecki/Pexels
Spain’s traffic authority wants to clamp down on short distractions on the road by fining drivers who have their phones close to them even if they’re not technically using them.

Spain’s Directorate General of Traffic continues with its plans of toughening the country’s road laws, just days after the speed limit for most urban roads in Spain was reduced from 50km/h to 30km/h

The DGT is now seeking approval from the Spanish Parliament to increase the criteria that constitutes a punishable offence for using electronic devices at the wheel. 

As part of this reform of Spain’s Traffic, Driving and Road Safety Law, shorter distractions than texting or speaking on the phone would also be considered a “serious” offence which incurs the loss of 3 points off one’s driving licence and a €200 fine.

Therefore, whether a driver has the phone on their lap rather than in a safe and correct place, if they’re holding it in their hand while driving or they simply pick it up for a second to look at a message, this will be considered a punishable distraction. 

Up until now, mobile-related offences considered “serious” were texting or using your hand to talk on the phone.

If approved, those caught speaking on their mobiles or texting at the wheel will be deemed to have committed a “very serious” infraction rather than “serious” and lose 6 points off their license. 

The news has so far been covered by La Sexta TV channel and by Spanish road and driving specialists autopista.es, who have called into question the ease of policing these different scenarios in which a driver is not necessarily ‘using’ their phone or other devices but is engaging in behaviour that may still affect their driving. 

If the tougher measures are adopted, it is also likely mean that those caught using headphones or a GPS or navigation system with their hands while driving will lose 6 points rather than 3, as the same punishments apply for GPS and headphones usage as to those of using a mobile phone (texting or talking) at the wheel.

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According to DGT data, distractions at the wheel are the cause of an average 300 lives lost on Spanish roads every year. 

In March 2021, the DGT appealed to drivers to keep their eyes on the road, by revealing the distance a car travels while a driver is distracted for just a few seconds, hundreds of metres in which an accident can take place if they’re not paying attention. 

  • Sending a WhatsApp message requires about 20 seconds: 600 metres travelled
  • ‘Googling’ something requires 14 seconds: 466 metres travelled
  • Picking up the phone to answer takes an average of 8 seconds: 266 metres travelled
  • Setting a radio station takes 6 seconds: 200 metres travelled
  • Lighting a cigarette can take 4 seconds: 133 metres travelled

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