So how is the new motorway speed limit being observed? I reckon that the same people, a small majority are sticking to it and the same speed merchants are ignoring it, so this could be called successful. I use the motorways a lot in the course of my work and stick to the limit as my bank balance and points on my licence force me to keep legal.
Three times since living in Spain I have received fines and points sanctions for speeding, so am I a speed freak? No, just the victim of circumstances. One instance was due to my negligence in that I hadn’t noticed that the speed limit on a particular motorway in Murcia was restricted to 100 KPH. I found out soon enough when the picture of my car arrived through the post advising me of the sanction. Another time I was the victim of a cash gathering exercise when a convoy of traffic on a normal road was tootling along at 90 as this was the speed of the lead car. After a while we were all pulled in as we had passed a T junction where the limit dropped to 60; you know the ones, 100 metres of restriction which everyone blithely ignores
The third time I was in a rush, so no excuses. So why do people speed? Being in a hurry doesn’t quite seem to be part of the Spanish culture, so are all speeders foreigners like us? I guess some drivers just like the thrill of speeding either because it is their thing or a way of sticking up two fingers to the authorities “I’m breaking the law, so up yours”, just a way of the little man getting back at Big Brother. Maybe they are in a rush because of some pressing need and are prepared to risk being apprehended by the nice boys in green. Only last week, whilst driving on the AP7, I was passed at some speed by a fairly new Porsche Cayenne. A short while later, the car was stopped in the very narrow hard shoulder on a bend whilst a yummy mummy was getting the pants off her toddler. Now this was barmy; travelling at high speed then stopping in a dangerous place because little Jose needed to have a pee was plain crazy. Perhaps they didn’t want a puddle in their nice expensive car
Who’s at fault? You approach a roundabout and intend turning left at the third exit, so just as you were taught to do in the UK or Ireland, you take the left lane and when exiting, indicate right, make the turn and a car smashes into your right hand side. You would not have been able to see whether he was indicating to turn off or not so assume that he is. I have seen many near misses of this nature and it is generally because the Spanish are taught to approach roundabouts differently. In practice the Spanish just cut across both lanes and swing the wheel over when they want to exit.
In Spain, the outside (left) lane of a roundabout is for overtaking only. A car has to be in the right lane to exit the roundabout, so cars in the right lane always have priority. If you are in the left lane and want to turn off, you can only do so if you will not hinder a vehicle on your right
Now crossroads used to confuse me as I never knew who had the right of way. There is a hierarchy for priorities. A policeman directing traffic has priority over any other road signs; this can be seen at busy periods such as market days when the copper is practicing his whistle blowing to send everyone through red traffic lights. In the absence of the police, then traffic signs are the next priority; stop, give way etc. Where there are no signs is where the most confusion reigns. My Spanish colleagues advise me that in these circumstances, priority is to the right, so if you arrive at an unmarked crossroads at the same time as another vehicle, then the vehicle to your right has priority; could be fun if four cars arrive at the same time!
A frequent question is why pedestrian crossings are in different colours such as red, green or black interspersed by white. One Spaniard advised me that red ones are the most dangerous crossings where suicidal pedestrians have been known to appear from nowhere and that green ones are those that you can drive over at high speed, but I saw the glint in his eye, so he changed tack and said it just depended on what particular colour paint the council had left over from doing up some building or sports complex. Basically, crossings are all the same, irrespective of colour
Who has the right of way on pedestrian crossings? Well here in Spain it appears not to be the person on foot as crossings are generally used for parking and most motorists do not stop to allow a pedestrian across unless the walker is already half way over and then the car will be driven round him. The general protocol seems to be that if you want to walk across one, you wait at the edge of the crossing and make eye contact with the driver (this is not possible with the Guardia Civil as the first item of uniform they are given is a pair of Ray-Bans) which encourages the driver to let you cross. If the car is coming fast, just wait. If being driven slowly make the sign of the cross, close your eyes and pray that the driver slams on his brakes.
You may have the right of way, but it’s no use explaining that to Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates!