Advice for motorhome owners to take the pain out of driving in Spain

Driving in a foreign country is never easy. New roads, unfamiliar landmarks, unknown place names, different signs, and being far away from your native land and driving on the opposite side of the road can be a scary experience.

The roads today in Spain are much better than they were a decade ago, and many of the infamously dangerous major single carriageways have been made into decent dual carriageways and some excellent toll motorways have also been built. Like in any country Spain has a mix of very slow, very fast and normal drivers. The slow ones are frighteningly slow and do not go any faster than 50 kph. The normal drivers do not really pose any threat to motorhome owners. However, the fast drivers have a driving technique that can be scary. If someone wants to get past you they literally sit on the bumper just millimetres away and they will then put on the left indicator to tell you that they want to get past. They are relentless and sometimes crazy when it comes to overtaking.

When it rains in Spain the roads actually become quite terrifying but even this does not stop the drivers sitting on the bumper trying to get past. If wet roads pose an added danger then damp roads are even worse. In dry conditions the roads in Spain can sometimes be slippery due to dust, but when the roads become slightly damp the combination of moisture and dust can be lethal. Anyone who has driven in Spain will not be surprised that it has the worst accident record in the EU with 32 deaths per 10,000 cars per kilometre while the EU average a much lower 13. It is also the country from where motorhome insurance claims are submitted with a daily monotony.

Spain has four rush hours: 8 to 9.30am, 12.30 to 2.30pm, 3.30 to 5pm and 6.30 to 8.30pm. Rush hour in cities such as Madrid and Barcelona lasts all day. Madrid has an average traffic speed of below 10kph (6mph) and should be avoided if possible. Seatbelts must be worn and the use of mobiles while driving is prohibited. Hands-free kits are permitted, but they are not allowed to have earpiece attachments. Research has recently shown that 98% of Spaniards don’t even know this.

The following items must be carried at all times when driving in Spain: driving license, insurance documents, ownership or rental documents, spare pair of glasses, fluorescent jackets (for all occupants), two warning triangles, fire extinguisher and a first-aid kit. The police like to catch out drivers for not wearing their fluorescent jacket when stepping out of the vehicle and they are quick to hand out fines for failing to comply. They are entitled to insist that the fine is paid immediately by a tourist. Those who cannot pay immediately can have the motorhome impounded. It is therefore wise to pay immediately, especially as there is a 20% reduction to do so. Spain has strict drink driving laws, only allowing 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per millilitre of blood – much stricter than the UK where the limit is 0.8. New drivers are effectively forbidden to drink and drive, with a very low 0.1 mg/l limit. The law operating in Spain regarding the use of indicators on motorways is being strictly enforced. Also do not cross the solid white line when joining the motorway from a slip road, wait until the line is broken.

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