Aquaplaning

Aquaplaning car insurance spain

During the winter months Spain can be subjected to some very heavy rain. On some occasions. rather than a prolonged consistent rainfall it can be quick and torrential with a huge amount of water falling in a very short space of time. Weather a downpour or a steady stream of rain the result can be standing water on roads, which is an obvious danger to the motorist.

It might seem obvious but in wet conditions the first thing you should do is reduce your speed.  The vehicle grips the road through the tyre and when the road is wet the tyre has less adhesion to the road. The result is it takes longer to slow down. So reduce your speed and remember to respect the distance between you and the vehicles in front. If it is going to take longer to slow down, then the gap between you and the vehicles ahead should be increased.

How does aquaplaning happen?

One of the problems of water on the road is that it can accumulate in front of your tyres and build up quicker than the tyre and weight of the vehicle can disperse it. The result is that a layer of water builds up under the tyre and you lose contact with the road. The problem is enhanced the faster you are driving and the deeper the water but there are also other factors that influence the possible chances of aquaplaning which we will come on to. Further danger occurs when you suddenly come across a puddle which can be difficult to see.

If you lose contact with the road surface due to aquaplaning, you will hear the engine noise increase and the wheels will start spinning. This can be particularly dangerous if you are cornering as you will begin to skid. If the vehicle has slid and the tyres regain traction, then the vehicle may suddenly jolt as it corrects its trajectory to the direction of the tyres.

How to recover from aquaplaning

If you start to lose control of the vehicle due to aquaplaning and you are travelling in a straight line, then ease off the accelerator to give the vehicle a chance to regain grip of the tarmac. Trying to change direction may cause the vehicle to slide. If you need to brake, then do it calmly as the vehicle could become unstable.

If the phenomenon occurs whilst you are turning or you start to skid, then take your foot off the accelerator and despite your natural reactions, turn the steering wheel gently in the direction of the slide as this should help you regain grip.

Once you have recovered control of the vehicle pull in somewhere safely and catch your breath for a few minutes.

How to avoid aquaplaning

As always the best advice is to avoid the situation in the first place. If there is a lot of rain do you need to drive your vehicle at all?

Reduce your speed.

Increase the distance between you and vehicle in front.

You can also reduce the chances of aquaplaning by ensuring your tyres are roadworthy.  Worn tyres will be more susceptible to aquaplaning. Under inflated tyres can also increase the problem, so you should check tyre pressure regularly.

Speed limits change on Spanish roads

In the spring of 2019, the speed limits in Spain will change.  The Law is being passed that will see a simplification of the current speed limits. The change will mean that cars, motorcycles and buses will be limited to 90 kph on conventional roads, whilst all other vehicles must travel at a speed of no more than 80 kph. An exception will be where the conventional road has a physical separation between to two opposing flows of traffic. In this case, the maximum speed limit will be 100 kph for cars and motorcycles.

You can exceed the 90 kph limit in a car or motorcycle if you are overtaking a vehicle on a conventional road. In fact, you can increase your speed to 110 kph to overtake but then must fall back to the speed limit. The idea is to allow swift and safe overtaking, however, you can only exceed the normal speed limit if the vehicle you overtake is not driving already at 90 kph. If the vehicle in front is doing 80 kph for eaxmple you can temporarily exceed the speed limit. If the vehcile in front is already doing 90 kph then you have no right to increase your velocity to overtake.

On a motorway, there will be three speed limits. Cars a motorcycles will continue to be allowed to travel at 120 kph. Trucks and vans will be restricted to a maximum of 90 kph. The remainder of vehicles will have a maximum limit of 100 kph and this includes buses.

The reasoning behind the reduction in speed limits relates to the Directorate deTrafico (DGT) goal of further reducing the number of road deaths. There are numerous studies linking speed with road deaths. This amendment to speed limits is estimated to reduce the number of casualties by a further 10%.

Accidents on conventional roads is twice as high as those on motorways so it seems logicalthat this is an area the DGT look at.

Sweden recently reduced the speed limit in their country from 90 kph to 80 kph which saw a huge 41% reduction in road deaths.

It is also worth noting that the speed indicated on the sign is the maximum allowed and is not necessarily a target.

Have you seen a speed limit in a square sign with a blue background? Well this sign is used to recommend a maximum speed limit. This is not the same as the round sign with a red border which indicates the maximum you are allowed to travel at. The blue background is a recommendation.

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.

Tougher law for using mobile phones in Spain

Tougher law for using mobile phones in Spain

The Government of Spain is currently looking into changing the law related to using a mobile telephone whilst driving.

It is already an offence to manually use a mobile telephone whilst driving. This will incur the withdrawal of three points from your driving licence.

However, if a draft reform of the traffic laws is passed then this offence will see the removal of six points, double the current penalty.

The reform also seeks to clarify the offence by stating that using your hands to search a device, text a message or answer a call will be an infringement of the road traffic laws.

The new law will extend to all types of devices, including navigation systems. An offence won’t be incurred where these devices can be operated without the use of your hands. Devices that give verbal instructions and that are operated by voice will be ok.

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.

Speed limits in Spain

speed limits in spain

Once driving in Spain, especially on the motorways, you will soon realise what a pleasure it can be, compared to the congested motorways of the UK, for example.

However, in order not to spoil your trip, you will need to keep alert of the various speed limits. The fines can be large and will ruin most people’s day and may come accompanied by the removal of some points from your licence. In Spain, you start with 12 points on your licence. This can go up to 15 if you continue to keep out of trouble. If you are penalised for a traffic infringement then points can be deducted from the total you currently have.

Speed Limits in SPain
Infographic: DGT.es

For the main reasons for incurring a loss of points on your licence you can visit this article.

In urban areas, the maximum speed limit is generally 50 kilometres per hour unless otherwise indicated. On secondary roads, the speed limit depends on the width of any hard shoulder. So the maximum speed will be 90 kilometres per hour or 100 kilometres per hour. If you are travelling on a motorway then the speed limit for cars and motorcycles is a maximum of 120 kilometres per hour. Clearly, if there is a road sign indicated a lower speed limit or roadworks indicating a reduced speed then that signal takes precedence over the highway code norm.

If you are towing a trailer in Spain on a motorway then the maximum speed limit is 90 kph, if the maximum weight of the trailer is 750kg or less. If the trailer is larger then the maximum speed is 80 kph. On conventional roads outside of an urban area the speed limit would be 80 kph if there is a hard shoulder of 1.5 metres or 70kph if not.

The level of fine and penalty points lost will depend on the speed over the limit you were doing at the time and how quickly you are prepared to pay the fine. Here is a table that explains what the fine (multa) will be and how many points will be taken from your licence (puntos). Usually, the fine is halved if you pay within a short period of time, which is detailed in the penalty notice you receive.

Speeding fines in Spain
Infographic: DGT.es

 

 

Buckle up for the ride

wearing seatbelts in spain

The DGT (Direccion General de Trafico) recently launched its latest campaign aimed at people not using their seatbelt and also checking child restraint systems.

It seems that there are still a serious minority not wearing their seatbelt and the figures for last year are not encouraging. In 2017, 229 users of cars and vans that did not use a seatbelt died, 39 more than the year previously. It is said that using your seatbelt will half the chances of dying in an accident.

In the case of children, they are five times more likely to suffer serious injury if they are travelling without the property safety restraints.

These safety devices are not only a legal requirement but have been scientifically proven to save lives. So why do people still take these risks?

The authorities objective is to educate people not using these devices of their effectiveness. Pere Navarro said, “the belt is still, today, the single most effective safety device in vehicles. The DGT aims, with this type of campaign, to raise awareness of the importance of its use, both in adults and children, in front or rear seats, on urban or interurban roads, on long or short journeys. The belt and the SRI, always. There is no option. ”

The number of deaths in 2017 from the non-use of seatbelts and appropriate child restraint systems rose from 190 to 229 which is a worrying trend.

If you need some statistics to convince you why you should be wearing a seatbelt then here they are:

– The use of seatbelts and SRIs is mandatory for all occupants of a vehicle, on any route (either short or long) and on any road (urban or interurban).

– It is a basic and fundamental element of road safety and its use has saved thousands of lives. According to various studies of the European Union, fastening the seat belt when traveling in a vehicle would save the lives of more than 7,000 people in the European Union each year.

– Protects both from getting thrown out of the passenger compartment, as well as from hitting the windscreen.

– Its use in the rear seats is essential. In a frontal impact, the probability of a rear seat occupant fatally striking another passenger in the front seats is multiplied by eight.

– The belt reaches maximum effectiveness in rollovers, where the risk of death is reduced by 77%.

– Beware of the airbag: its use is not effective if it is not complemented by the use of the safety belt: both are designed to work in a complementary way.

– The occupants move at the same speed as the vehicle. For example, in a braking the vehicle stops, but the travelers move: a collision at 50km / h is equivalent to falling from a second floor.

– A frontal collision at 80 km / h without wearing a safety belt, usually results in death or serious injury.

Don’t play with children

The safety of a child will depend on the driver, as well as the use of the appropriate safety restraint. It is your responsibility.

In addition, drive calmly, respecting the road traffic laws, without being aggressive, maintaining the correct safety distance between you and the vehicle in front and adjusting your speed the level of traffic. This is the best way to protect the little ones.

In all vehicles, up to nine seats, including the driver, minors of less than 135 centimetres (regardless of age) should use approved child restraint systems properly adjusted to their height and weight and they must be in the back seats.

If you are found not to be complying with this law the road traffic authorities can immobilise your vehicle.

AESVI (Spanish Alliance for Child Road Safety) among its ten fundamental rules, it lists the following aspects

  1. In a vehicle, always carry the child in a restraint system suitable to its size and weight, however short the journey. Never, under any circumstances, leave the child alone or without supervision.
  2. Always use approved chairs, and if possible, opt for the more current regulations, since the security requirements are greater.

Check the approval label, in which the size must be indicated and / or the weight for which the product has been approved.

Source: DGT.es

Blue lights for emergency vehicles in Spain

Blue lights for emergency vehicles in Spain

This week will see the introduction of blue lights for emergency vehicles, such as ambulances and fire engines in Spain. It is the start of a programme that will run for two years.

Currently, many emergency vehicles have orange lights, the same as agricultural vehicles, dust carts and road sweepers.

The plan is that with all emergency vehicles carrying blue lights then there will be less confusion for motorists. With slow vehicles and roadside maintenance vehicles no longer using the same colour flashing lights as an ambulance or fire engine, motorists will be able to identify more easily an emergency vehicle.

The blue lights will only be used for emergency vehicles. Many other countries have adopted the use of blue lights for emergency vehicles and this new regulation will bring Spain more in line with its neighbours.

Image: DGT

What should you do when you see an emergency vehicle with its lights flashing?

  • Continue in your lane and slow down gently.
  • Don’t brake suddenly and make sudden changes of direction. Drive calmly.
  • If it is necessary, move to the side of the road to make it easier for the emergency vehicle to pass. Use your mirrors and signal clearly.
  • Respect and follow the instructions of emergency personnel or police officers if they are there giving instructions.

Can children sit in the front seat in Spain?

Can children sit in the front seat in Spain?

The answer depends on the child’s height and not their age. The DGT doesn’t recommend that children travel in the front passenger seat until they have reached 1.5 metres tall. However, the law stipulates they must be taller than 1.35 metres.

If the child is not taller than 1 metre 35 centimetres then they must sit in the back seats of a car in Spain.

There are three exceptions to this rule. One is if the car only has two seats.

Another would be where all the rear seats are already occupied by children 1.35 metres or less. In this case, they would be allowed to travel in the front passenger seat.

The final exception is when only two car seats can fit in the back. If you are carrying three small children and only two child seats can be securely installed in the back of the car then the extra child can sit in the front.

If a child is travelling in the front passenger seat, because of one of the exceptions mentioned above, then they must sit in a suitable rear facing child seat and the airbag must be deactivated. Depending on the make and model of car that might have to be done by a mechanic.

These rules have been designed to improve safety. If you breach these road traffic rules the authorities could fine you 200 euros and take three points off your driving licence.

How dangerous are Spanish roads ?

How dangerous are Spanish roads ?

What are the first thoughts that go through your head when you think about driving in Spain?

For some, there is a perception that it is a dangerous place to drive a vehicle.

How dangerous are Spanish roads ?
Photo: Pexels

I have lived in Spain for many years and I admit I still get frustrated by double parking, especially when there is a space available a few metres ahead. Also if you find that the person is sat in a café having dinner and has blocked you in your parking space. This also infuriates a lot of Spanish people but I’ve become more relaxed about these things. Someone stopping on a zebra crossing and chatting to their neighbours with the back half of the car protruding into the main road would have made me throw my hands up in despair about the potential danger to people trying to cross and the inconvenience I now have in trying to negotiate the rump of someone else’s car to continue my journey. Now it just provokes a sharp lift of the head and a slightly frustrated tutt. Then there is stopping to let someone out of the car without any indication and no intention to move to the side of the road to make it easier for other traffic to pass. This also receives a similarly much more composed response from me these days. But don’t be mistaken into thinking that only the natives drivers do this in Spain.

Whilst we all see things that seem to be dangerous and unnecessarily so, the statistics for Spanish roads are not all that bad. Perhaps it is because the things I’ve described happen in busy towns where traffic is unable to travel very fast and you come to expect the unexpected. But what about out of town?

Only this week a client was explaining to me how a flat-bed lorry sped round a country lane too fast and deposited its cargo on top of his car. Its cargo was a large cement mixing machine. It hadn’t been secured in the back of the lorry and the client was lucky to escape injury or even much worse. His car was not going anywhere after that accident though.

So what do we know about Spanish roads? All countries have black spots and most people can recall lanes or streets from years ago, from their own countries, notorious for close shaves or a series of terrible traffic accidents. Perhaps people had been calling for a road sign to warn drivers but nothing was ever done until a week after some poor soul had been killed.

What do the figures say about Spanish roads?

The latest figures I could find were from the Ministerio del Interior department Dirección General de Trafico and related to the year-end 2016. After the initial introduction by Gregorio Serrano López the Director General for Traffic the document states, with no time wasted “… a total of 1,810 people were killed at the time of the accident or within 30 days after its occurrence…” This is how road deaths are measured throughout Europe. If someone dies within thirty days of the road accident they become a road death statistic as their death would probably be as a result of the initial incident. It is a uniform measure used throughout Europe.

2016 was not a good year. The number of road deaths increased by 7% and the number of people that were hospitalized grew by 3%. The summer months of July and August are the most dangerous on Spanish roads, which is pretty logical bearing in mind the huge number of people going or coming back from holiday, national and international tourists alike.

Whilst 2016 saw an increase in road deaths in Spain the trend from 1989, the worse year since records began has been very positive. In 1989 there were 9,344 fatalities on Spanish roads but by 2013 the figures had plummeted to 1,680. In 2016 it was 1,810 people.

The number of vehicles on Spanish roads had surged by more than one million in the last decade. Possibly as a result of having suffered years of recession and austerity the average age of a car on Spanish roads has now reached 11 years whilst motorcycles are nine years. Back in 2007 when the financial crisis first bit in Spain the averages were 6.5 years for both cars and motorcycles.

So how does Spain compare?

Are Spanish roads dangerous ?
Photo Pexels

In 2010 the Spanish mortality rate from traffic accidents was 53 deaths per million inhabitants whilst by 2016 the figure was down to 39 per million. The European average in 2016 was 51.

In fact, Spain has the fifth lowest fatality rate in Europe. It’s mortality rate is as good as that of Germany and better than France, Italy and Belgium. It only lags behind Sweden, the UK, The Netherlands and Denmark in terms of road safety.

The safest roads are Spain’s motorways. Clearly, with everyone going in the same direction on a wide piece of tarmac this is not really that much of a surprise. Nor is the fact that traditional two-way roads between towns are the most dangerous. It is also not a shock that speed, alcohol and drugs are predominant factors in road fatalities.

To summarise

Spain’s roads are nowhere near the worst and despite double parking, stopping in the outside lane on roundabouts to nip in the shop and buy cigarettes, and blocking zebra crossings outside schools to drop off your children, it seems these actions are irritating, dangerous even, but likely to only involve an inconvenience in most cases, a possible injury in other cases, a fatality rarely but probably a loud tutt from me.

That doesn’t mean I recommend you start doing those things but perhaps continued vigilance and a laid-back response, if any, is all that’s needed, but pay particular attention on inter-urban roads, please.