Wednesday, 13 March 2013

New draft laws on speed limits, radar detectors, seat belts and children in cars

(Illustration only)
SPAIN Further to our item about the Government's plans to up the top speed limit to 130 kph, there are several changes that we didn't have time to write about. These include speed limits on secondary roads, (which are puzzlingly related to the road width - see below for details), as well as a total ban on radar detectors, new rules on seat-belt use and new restrictions on children in cars. As for radar detectors, the last government (PSOE) banned the use of radar inhibitors, appliances that interfered with radar signals from speed detectors so that the traps couldn't capture speeding vehicles. But the door was left open for car-mounted radar detectors that warn drivers of a nearby speed traps. That door is now closed.>>>
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Seat belts for all and children in cars
The new draft regulations would also eliminate almost all exceptions to the obligatory seat-belt laws. Until now -or until the new regulations come into force- if you had a medical condition or a disability, and could prove it, or you were a taxi driver, a delivery driver, or the driver of emergency vehicles, you would be exempted from the seat belt laws. When -and if- the draft law is approved in Congress, those exemptions will no longer be valid.

When the new laws are approved, all minors under 135 cms in height will be obliged to sit in the back - with their seat-belts on, as is obligatory for all rear seat passengers at present.

Children of our or younger using car seats or retention systems in groups 0, 0+ and I (*) must travel looking to the rear if the device provides for it.

Speed limits according to road widths
(We will not guarantee we have understood this correctly, but we feel certain that you will not be expected to stop, leave your car and measure the width of the road. If so, a limited number of measuring tapes will be made available for rental at our offices, at a price.)

The draft law, dated February 25, 2013, and not yet approved by Congress, raises the possibility that cars and motorbikes will be restricted to 120 kph laws on motorways (autovías) and toll roads (autopistas) and a maximum of 90 kph on 'conventional roads' (read 'secondary' we think) with a width of 6.5 metres or more. At present, speed limits for these vehicles are 100 kph on conventional roads that have a paved hard shoulder of at least 1.5 metres wide.

Tráfico had already announced that it had planned to eliminate that 100 kph on those 'conventional' roads, but the draft goes little further inasmuch as it plans speed limits of between 70 and 50 kph for those 'secondary' roads of less than 6.5 m wide.

Traffic on those 'conventional' roads with a line along the middle will be limited to 70 kph, whereas those without the line, the speed limit will be reduced to 50 kph.

Variable speed limits on major roads
While the general speed limit on autovías and autopistas will remain at 120 kph, the DGT (Dirección General de Tráfico) is studying, as promised, the possibility of raising the maximum allowed to 130 kph on some stretches, signalled by variable panels, for cars, motorbikes and three-wheeled vehicles 'assimilated to them' ('related to'? - as we said, we don't fully understand all this, but then we haven't ever taken a driving test in Spain).

According to the draft, this speed limit increase will be 'authorized and managed' exclusively by the DGT 'temporarily and on stretches where there are proper indices of security, good layout and paving, as well as optimal weather and environmental conditions.' We assume from all this that the panels mentioned above will change the speed limits according to these conditions. But assuming things can be dangerous.

City speed limits at 30 or 20 kph
City driving will also be changing. One way streets, and those with one lane in each direction, will be limited to 30 kph instead of the present 50 kph.

On urban roads with a pavement (sidewalk), the speed will be limited to 20 kph, while the rest of urban streets, major throughways, it stays at their present 50 kph.

Most accidents happen on secondary roads
The traffic authorities justify these changes, and in particular those affecting secondary roads, is that three quarters of all accidents with victims happen there.

They argue, too, that the need for different speeds according to the road widths (i.e. between 90 and 50 kph) is based on whether or not they had a wide enough surface, of at least 1.5 m. This, they say, is to ensure 'driver safety'.

As for reducing the speeds on city streets to 30 kph, the reasoning behind the measure is to 'pacify urban traffic, encourage bicycle use and reduce fatal accidents within cities.' They point out that 'the injuries or death of pedestrians depends on the speed of the vehicle.' 

(*) We will look into this subject (as we have no small children among us) and let you (and us) know what this means.

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