How has driving in Spain improved in the last 40 years?
This year Spain celebrates the 40th year of its constitution and the Directorate General de Trafico (DGT) has been looking back over that period at the evolution in numbers of traffic and how road deaths have fallen.
In 1978 the new constitution for the country was approved. That same year 6,967 people died on Spanish roads. The number fell significantly when the wearing of a helmet on a motorcycle was made legally compulsory in 1982. However, that improvement disappeared as by 1989, the worse year on record, road deaths had reached 9,344.
In 2017 the figure was down by 83% to 1,830 but the DGT is not content. It has been running a campaign for a while now with the aim of reducing the number of deaths to zero. Is it realistic? It is an honourable objective and if not possible, if the authorities are aiming for that figure then surely we will see further improvements.
Over the years a number of factors have helped reduced road deaths. The authorities made ABS braking system compulsory on cars. They set up a commission to specifically look at road safety. Points were added to driving licences and taken away for infractions, which perhaps surprisingly only started in 2006. Tougher penalties are in place for speeding.
In 1978 there were just under 9 million vehicles on Spain’s roads. By the end of 2017, this had grown to almost 33 million. Whilst last year saw a small increase in the number of road deaths the drop of 83% over this time is still quite an achievement bearing in mind the huge increase in the fleet of vehicles on the roads.
Perhaps one factor that may have contributed to the small rise in deaths is the age of the vehicles. In 2005 the average age of vehicles on Spanish roads was just 6.7 years. In 2007 the economic crash hit Spain and it hit hard. Many people haven’t seen any real growth in their income since then and the average age of vehicles has risen to 10.8 years. Newer vehicles have better safety features. However, many ordinary motorists are not able to take advantage of those.
Speeding is still the main road traffic infraction but surprisingly not wearing a seat belt also features highly, even nowadays.
Vehicle manufacturers and Government can introduce measures and police them but ultimately we all have a responsibility to ourselves, our families and other road users to use our common sense.