Explainer update: Driving in Spain means zero alcohol tolerance

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12.17 pm : July 30 – The DGT has issued a reminder that if you are driving in Spain that there is a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to alcohol and driving.

So not only should you make sure your car is roadworthy and legal, so you too should make sure that you are legal to drive. That may mean handing your keys over to someone else if you have had a drink.

Although the police may be lenient from time to time, drink driving is illegal and could see your car impounded and you issued with a fine.

Public transport in Spain is good, affordable and reliable so use it. Alternatively, if you are going to drink get someone else to drive or better still pick somewhere local and walk – it could save your life and that of others.

6.03 pm : July 29 – Headed to Spain for your summer holidays, going by car- then take five minutes to make sure your car is both roadworthy and legal.

Authorities in Spain have been cracking down on traffic offences as the country seeks to reduce the accident rate and the death toll, and that includes checking on foreign drivers and foreign registered vehicles.

British drivers are particularly targeted for checks following Brexit, with many local British residents having failed to exchange their licences for a Spanish one. It is therefore quite possible that you will be fined unfairly given the language barriers, so it is even more important to make sure that you and your vehicle are 100 per cent legal.

Vehicle documentation

All drivers in Spain are required to keep their registration papers, insurance policy and roadworthy certificate in the car with them at all times. Aside from the fact that you could be fined for not having these with you, they are a great way of proving that you are in fact a tourist and are not resident in Spain.

Having that documentation to hand is also important should you be involved in an accident with Spanish drivers’ traditional swapping details at the scene, including a description of the incident that is signed by both parties. It is always important that you retain a copy of this whether in hard copy or as a photograph.

Your car

In Spain you are required to:

  1. Adjust your headlights to make allowance for the fact that your car is set up for driving on the left-hand side of the road, otherwise, you could blind oncoming traffic. Most modern cars allow you to adjust your headlights from inside the car alternatively stickers are available from automotive shops that are designed to defuse the light
  2. Keep safety equipment in the car including at least one hi-vis vest (preferably one for each passenger) and two reflective triangles (electronic beacons are not yet mandatory).
  3. Keep a fire extinguisher with you if you are towing a trailer or anything similar.
  4. Have a spare wheel available. Not all cars come with spare wheels, which can be replaced with a kit that will inflate the tyre long enough for you to remove yourself from danger and seek assistance.

Spanish authorities also advise that you keep a torchlight and medical kit in the car, however, they are not compulsory.

Making sure your vehicle is roadworthy before heading off could also save you a lot of trouble, both from the police but also from breaking down.

Bicycles and other loads

The law in Spain allows for a car’s length to be extended up to ten per cent if carrying a load and 15 per cent if carrying bicycles.

Two rules must be adhered to:

  1. Your rear lamps and number plate must be clearly visible and not obstructed in any way.
  2. The bicycles or the container may not protrude past the sides of the vehicle. If it is three metres wide, then your load cannot be more than three metres wide. The obvious exception is a trailer or caravan that comes with its own lights, number plate etc.

Obstructing your rearview

In Spain, it is illegal to obstruct the rearview of your car.

  1. Drivers of hatchbacks (5-door), station wagons and SUVs may pack their boot to the roof provided it is secured and the vehicle has exterior mirrors on either side with an unobstructed view of the road behind.
  2. Items on the rear parcel shelf that either limit the view or which are not securely stored are considered unsafe and therefore illegal.
  3. The rear window glass must be kept free of all obstructions including stickers and unauthorised tinting.

Cars that DGT officers or the police deemed to be unsafely packed could be impounded and drivers can be fined.

Using dashcams

Dashcams are legal in Spain, but their use is restricted.

  1. The dashcam must not be operated by the driver
  2. Footage may be used as evidence of an accident or incident and can be shared with the authorities and insurance company

Under no circumstances can the footage from the dashcam be used publicly i.e. posted online as that contravenes privacy laws in Spain.

Some basic advice

Speed limits have been reduced in Spain and the police are imposing these more rigorously including through the use of helicopters, drones and multiple camera arrays. They are also using a limited number of unmarked vehicles to check speed.

Environmental zones now exist in most large cities, but to make use of them your car needs to display the correct sticker. These are available for a small fee from Correos (the post office) on the presentation of the car’s papers. Unlike London, most modern cars may be used in these zones.

Most cities and towns have free parking usually demarcated by white lines. Coloured lines on the road mean parking is either restricted or paid, with payment in cash or via an app. If you do receive a parking fine it can be paid at the meter in the same way.

Roundabouts are considered a continuation of the road so stay in the right-hand lane unless overtaking others. When you leave the roundabout you have to be in the outside lane as you would if turning right on a normal road.


If you are headed to Spain by car, take it easy, take breaks and stay safe. And if in doubt visit www.dgt.es or www.n332.es for more information and advice.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, do remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories and remember, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com.