If you’re a driver, you may have at one time or another over the past few months felt as if you’re being watched. Well, you can rule out paranoia, as there has definitely been a significant increase in police controls, speed traps etc as part of new road safety measures.
If your car is more than 10 years old, you may have also received a similar letter to the one shown here, “encouraging” you to improve road safety by purchasing a newer car. According to statistics, more than 50% of vehicles on Spanish roads are more than 10 years old, doubling the risk of death in the event of an accident as opposed to newer cars. During the last year alone, more than 13 million letters were sent out to car owners who fell under this category and there are more in the pipeline.
Tráfico (the Spanish DVLA) initiated a series of campaigns to promote road safety amongst all users especially when it comes to car maintenance so even though we can all agree to the benefits of better road safety, the general consensus is that their methods have been a little extreme to say the least, leaving most drivers feeling harassed.
One of the newest features to be incorporated is that both fixed and mobile radars will no longer only monitor the speed at which we travel on the roads; they now have increased super powers so even if you are not travelling over the speed limit or have not pulled over by an police officer, your license plate will be read and a series of checks made. You are probably wondering what type of checks I am referring to. Well, the radar reads the license plate and links to tráfico’s central computer to see whether the vehicle has in-date ITV and obligatory insurance. This means that if you are late renewing your ITV or insurance or simply don’t bother to do so, you are in serious danger of receiving a fine through the post.
Last year this measure was carried out in selected areas as a tester and the results were surprising. In Cantabria for example, 5.617 fines were issued between the Guardia Civil and the Local Police for ITV related issues. The fine for this infraction amounts to 200 Euros if the car does not have ITV but could increase to 500 Euros if the car continues to circulate on the road after failing the test at the ITV Station.
This is also Tráfico’s way of updating its database regarding the number of vehicles actively circulating on Spanish roads as notifications were erroneously sent out to people whose vehicles had long ago moved onto a better life in car heaven (approximately 3,5 million inexistent vehicles).
Even though the main objective is a good one, most feel that Tráfico is abusing its power and is using this call to improved road safety as a smoke screen to rake in the cash, hence the feeling many drivers have had lately of practically being stalked on the roads. A substantial number of reports have been filed accusing police officers of hiding behind bins and bus stops with hand-held radars crouching tiger style (something I have witnessed myself, especially along the road between La Oliva and Tindaya), which is considered unnecessary, intimidating and abusive behaviour.
With an increased and much more visible presence on the road, drivers cannot afford to relax for a split second but if you do receive a fine, make sure it is valid before forking out as an experience I had with a client just last week over an incorrect fine that claimed he was circulating without insurance shows that Big Brother is not always right…