How to drive on a motorway in Spain

How to drive on a motorway in Spain

How to drive on a motorway in Spain

Motorways are built to help a large volume of traffic move from one town or city to another. They facilitate the flow of traffic, by separating vehicles going in one direction from those going in the other direction. They often have large clear illuminated signs which can provide useful information quickly after an accident, for example. Motorways are the safest roads to drive on but you still have to remain vigilant because some drivers are ignorant or forgetful of good driving conduct.

How to drive on a motorway in Spain

In no particular order here are some pointers on how to drive on a motorway in Spain.

  • Make sure you respect the distance between you and the vehicle in front. Have you allowed yourself enough time to slow down if someone ahead were to brake suddenly?
  • If you want to change lanes, then make sure you indicate. Indicators are not just for the ITV test although in some areas it is possible to believe it. Once you have changed lanes you should turn your indicator off.
  • The acceleration and deceleration lanes are meant for that purpose. If you are entering a motorway build up your speed in the acceleration lane to incorporate yourself into the motorway. If it is necessary to stop on the slip road on to a motorway, then make sure you stop at the beginning. This will enable you to accelerate and enter the motorway more safely when there is sufficient space. The idea of the slip road off the motorway or deceleration lane is just that. Use it to slow down rather than reducing your speed on the actual motorway.
  • Don’t hog the middle lane. In Spain you must always drive in the right hand lane unless you are overtaking or there is a queue of slow moving traffic. The middle lane and left lanes are only for overtaking. There are plenty of drivers who need reminding of this one!
  • Respect the speed limits. The maximum on a motorway in Spain is 120 kph for cars and motorcycles. The minimum speed is 60 kph unless you are in a traffic queue or there are other official warning signs stipulating a lower speed.
  • It is recommended that you take a break from driving every two hours or 200 kilometres of driving.
  • Do not use your mobile phone whilst driving. It’s dangerous and you could end up with 6 points on your licence and a fine.
    Make sure you have your V16 emergency light with you in case your car breaks down.


I doubt very much any of these pointers are new to the majority of people but I am sure we have all seen people touring a long in the middle lane, which means they are effectively blocking two lanes of the motorway, as it is illegal to overtake on the right. It does not hurt just to refresh our memory a little now and again.

Can you overtake on the right in Spain?

Can you overtake on the right in Spain?

How often
have you been travelling on a motorway and seen another driving sitting in the
middle lane or even circulating in the left most lane whilst there is no
traffic in the right hand lane?

These “left
lane syndrome” suffers, as they are known in Spain, cause traffic queues,
sudden braking and sometimes accidents.   

The regulations

The driving
regulations on Spanish roads do not allow you to overtake using a right hand
lane, except in special circumstances mentioned below. Therefore, a vehicle in
the middle lane is taking up two lanes and one in the left hand lane is blocking
three lanes of traffic. Under normal traffic conditions in Spain, you should
always be circulating in the lane furthest to the right-hand side. If there is
a second and/or third lane to the left then these are used for overtaking. Once
an overtaking manoeuvre is complete, you should return to the right-hand lane once

We have probably
all come across a driver, travelling below the speed limit and using the left
hand lane whilst there is no traffic to the right. This can cause the driver
behind to brake suddenly causing a ripple effect with the vehicles behind or
even more serious consequences.

Fines and loss of points

The driver continuing to drive in the left lane whilst not overtaking traffic is breaking the road traffic laws. If caught they could be fined 200 euros. However, before you decide to pass on the right you should be aware it is also a serious infraction of article 82 of the Road Traffic regulations. Overtaking on the right may result in a fine of several hundred euros and the loss of four points from your driving licence.


One of the
few occasions you can pass on the right hand side of another vehicle is if you
are in a traffic jam. If the lanes of traffic are moving slowly, it might be
that at some stage the right hand lane moves slightly faster than the left hand
lane. This results in you overtaking traffic using the lane on the right hand
side of a motorway, for example. This is not an infraction of article 82 but does
depend on the density of traffic and speed.

example might be on a slip road when entering the motorway or when a certain
lane is designated for a particular type of vehicle to circulate.

Remember, you should circulate in the right hand lane unless you are overtaking another vehicle. Additionally, overtaking on the right is a serious traffic offence that can result in a fine and loss of points on your licence.

Driving on a motorway in Spain

Driving on a motorway in Spain

The motorways in Spain are pretty much free-flowing, except if you are travelling during the rush hour or near a major city.

The usual limit on a motorway is 120 kilometres per hour unless otherwise indicated. Sometimes, when approaching a slip road, for example, the speed limit may be reduced to 100 or less and also when crossing bridges. It is then promptly increased again after the hazard.

Driving on a motorway in SpainYou may also see the yellow-backed road signs which are put in place whilst works are being undertaken. However, being undertaken can be used loosely as some I have seen have been concreted in and show signs of fading. Nonetheless, they need to be obeyed.

Although motorways can be fairly free of traffic motorists need to remember the correct way of driving on one. Around towns and cities, they become notably more congested and it becomes even more important to remember the rules of the road.

For example, you should always respect the road markings and circulate in the farthest lane to the right. You will often see people driving in the middle lane for kilometres whilst not overtaking anyone. This is not correct.

If you come across someone hogging the middle lane then do not be tempted to overtake them on the right. As you approach they may become aware of their error and start to move across into your path. Besides, overtaking on the right is prohibited in the Spanish highway code.

Do not overtake on the right

Despite someone hogging the middle lane, you must overtake on the left so will have to move across two lanes to pass them.

Of course, this is what causes frustration because the driver in the middle lane is effectively blocking two lanes.

Remember when you change lanes you must always use your indicator. That means when you start your manoeuvre from behind the car in front you need to indicate. Then once you are in the lane to overtake you turn your indicator off. You put it on once again when you are a safe distance ahead of the vehicle you overtook to indicate you are moving into the right-hand lane again. You are using your indicator, in these circumstances, to show a change of lane. Once you have changed lanes you should turn off the indicator.

To sumarise, the right-hand lane is for circulating on the motorway the two lanes to the left are for overtaking.