Here’s one for the trivia nuts; there are 110 styles of driving licence in the EU! You can imagine the amount of work that has gone into harmonising them, but as of January 2013 a universal EU driving licence comes into force. As it happens the UK and Spanish licences do not change much, but here is a summary of the changes

Categories AM, A1, A2, A, B , B1 and BE shall be valid for 10 years; member states may choose to issue licences with a validity of 15 years but Spain will not take this longer period. These categories cover motorbikes, cars and towing a trailer/caravan

Driving licenses in categories C, CE, C1, C1E, D, DE, D1 and D1E shall be valid for five years. These are for trucks and buses. Note that we old geezers were granted the right to drive trucks up to 7.5 tonnes when we passed our tests back in the days before power steering, heating and car radios. This allowance continued under “grandfather rights” when the requirement for a vocational test was introduced in the last decade. So if like me you have this entitlement (C1), it will probably expire before your car entitlement does.

Medical exam

Because of the above my licence has just been renewed, so I had the pleasure of undergoing a medical. Eyesight, colour perception, hearing test and medical history were all examined, but the fun part was the coordination test. This requires the use of a joystick in each hand to keep a dot positioned on two wavy lines that move randomly and at different speeds across a screen. A noise is heard when you are not right on line and for me this was fairly constant, so I thought that I had failed- not so, I was just slightly off line, no wonder my batting isn’t what it used to be!

The new photo on the licence (it came within a fortnight) has changed me from looking like a wanted criminal to a corpse; dead right!

Exchanging your UK licence

Of particular interest to expats is that if you are a resident of Spain, you must take out a Spanish licence within two years of becoming a resident, by implication even if the licence is still valid in your own country

Now I know that the press is full of problems in this area and I have experienced them first hand. At a recent meeting with Trafico, I believe that I uncovered the root cause which is to do with communications and technology, but more research is required, never easy when dealing with protectionist bureaucrats of any nationality. Once I have dug deeper I hope to report better news and minimise the frustration. However I urge you not to put off the process of changing your licence if you need to do so

Driving tests

Driving tests are also to conform to the same rules throughout the EU with set times for the tests for example. An innovation is for the examiner to ask the applicant to drive to a place that he knows without further instructions; SAT-NAV can be used for this purpose

The applicant will be asked to point out certain vehicle features such as where the brake fluid reservoir is; use the wipers, switch the headlights from high to low beam etc. to make all drivers aware of his vehicle and know how to use various devices at any time and situation.

He will also be advised whether he has driven in an efficient or economical style, both to save fuel and to reduce pollution

The written examination will have a data base of 15500 questions about road safety rules and signs, the influence of alcohol and /or drugs

With the introduction of uniform EU standards, we may yet see universal use of indicators, safe driving distances and less accidents which is the ultimate aim