What's up on the roads?

Is it just me - or has driving on Andalucian roads actually improved over the past ten years? Yes, I know that accident statistics are improving. But every time I see someone make an illegal pass, I wonder if people are really a bit more careful than they used to be - or if my nerves have just turned to steel over the years... The fact of the matter is that we not only have new improved laws regulating driving with a new point-based license, but now a new set of consequences for violators of the Spanish Traffic Law (Ley de Tráfico). And speaking of this newest set of revisions to the penalties that drivers can incur, I've been involved in an ongoing debate regarding whether or not foreign residents in Spain need to have a Spanish version of their drivers license. The logical answer is "Yes!" (with an exclamation mark). Clearly it does not make sense that foreign residents could drive about without any risk of losing points for infractions. However - and this is a big "however" - it so happens that certain reliable expats I know have visited their local Tráfico headquarters only to be told they do not indeed need to have a Spanish license. A Spanish friend rang the Guardia Civil and was given the same answer. On another front, a very reputable Spanish lawyer together with a longtime property administrator (Administrador de Fincas), both of whom work extensively with the foreign community, have assured me that foreigners do need to have a Spanish license and that they could be heavily penalised under the new law should they - as legal residents in this country - be caught driving without it after the grace period ends, which is sometime in May. At present the debate goes on. My next stop will be a consultation with the Tráfico press offices in Madrid, and I'll be sure to post the response I receive. Do keep in mind, however, that it is only logical that we all be expected to have a Spanish license if we are living here as permanent residents (and don't expect that Guardia Civil officer to believe you've only been here for a month if you're showing him or her the Spanish insurance policy for that vehicle with the Spanish plates - that's in your name!). Another point to keep in mind is that it is not at all uncommon for our "funcionario" friends to be uninformed about matters that concern us. My guess at this stage of the game is that officials on the front lines of the battle (funcionarios who "greet" you on the roads and from the windows of their "información al público" booths at the Traffic Department) will receive definitive orders in May - once the grace period is over. Anyone with information or questions, please feel free to post. I'm happy to include your queries in my "investigation".
Blog published on 21 January 2008