For the most part driving in Spain is not a daunting endeavor. There is not road rage here, if someone gets annoyed they are more likely to pull back and give you more space instead of confronting the situation. Be aware that the cars will flash their lights to signal they are about to pass you. Be prepared — speed traps are frequent and may include on-the-spot fines.
Many of Spain’s roadways are narrow and parking is often tight so you may find it easier to drive a smaller vehicle when traveling in older downtown areas of Rota, El Puerto de Santa Maria, and other Spanish towns. Larger vehicles can easily be used transiting to and from Naval Station Rota and surrounding towns, cities, and residential areas. Spanish traffic laws require seat belts on all vehicle seats. Children up to 18 months and 29 pounds or less must use a rear-facing seat. Children approximately one to four years old and 19 to 39 pounds must use a forward-facing seat. Children approximately four to 12-years-old and 33 to 80 pounds must use a booster seat and cushion. It is prohibited to travel with a 12-year-old in the front seat of vehicles unless they are taller than 53 inches. Children less than 12-years-old and 53 inches or shorter must use a retention device adapted to their height and weight.
Roads and Rules
Driving in Spain is very similar to driving in the U.S. Cars drive on the right side of the road and have the driver’s seat and steering wheel on their left side. The legal minimum age for driving is 18 years. Applications for Spanish driver’s licenses will be made at the Pass and I.D. section of the NAVSTA Rota Security Department. The applicant must be at least 18 years of age. You will need a valid stateside driver’s license. You will obtain a regular Spanish driver’s license at no cost to you. It takes approximately two weeks to get the Spanish license. If you are in possession of a Spanish driver’s license, you will be able to drive in all countries that are part of the European Union (EU). You and your family members may drive legally in Spain by obtaining an official Spanish translation of your stateside driver’s license from the Security Department.
There are a series of road safety regulations you must be aware of when driving in Spain. Talking on a cell phone is prohibited while driving or even when the car is parked. Use the passenger seat or get out of the car if you need to use your phone. Car radios and cell phones must be switched off while refueling. A reflective jacket must be used when getting out of the car on the road or the hard shoulder and warning triangles must be used if the vehicle has stopped on the road or hard shoulder. Use of devices designed to elude surveillance by traffic police is strictly prohibited. Overtaking can only be done on the left side of the car which you wish to pass. It is advisable to use your lights during the day in order to improve your visibility.
Established speed limits are 120 km/h on two lane highways, 100 km/h on conventional roads, 90 km/h on all other roads, and 50 km/h in crowded areas. Seatbelts must be worn by the driver and all passengers, in front and back seats, and helmets must be worn on motorbikes, mopeds, and bicycles. Additionally, driving in flip flops, sandals, heels, or backless shoes is not permitted and you can be fined for this type of footwear. Parking in public areas is not always permitted or free. In many cities the parking areas are regulated and subject to payment. Normally these can be identified by the presence of parking meters.
Drinking and Driving
Alcohol levels in the bloodstream must not exceed 0.5 (BAC). The Kingdom of Spain has a sliding scale. The more content of alcohol you have in your blood, the more consequences you may incur. Depending on what town the arrest is in, you will be looking at very significant, steep fines anywhere from 800 to 2,000 euros, up to month of community service, potential jail time, and an automatic suspension of your license for eight months.
Unlike some of the other countries in Europe, the United States has a specific treaty with the Spanish in addition to our NATO Status of Forces Agreement. This agreement requires any person who runs afoul of the Spanish legal system, whether it is civilly for a personal complaint, or criminally, is required to stay in Spain and cannot leave the country until their entire case is either dismissed, or if they receive some kind of sentence, until they complete it.
For more information about driving in Spain, please visit these sites:
Rota Welcome Guide
CNIC Naval Station Rota – Automobiles
FDNF Rota – Moving to Rota Q & A
Driving in Spain/