N332 April 2017

Keep Calm and Learn About Your Car

Safety devices such as blind spot detectors, autonomous emergency braking or parking sensors have been incorporated into vehicles, but the amount of information they provide and the number of systems can create an increase in the level of distraction whilst driving.

There are many systems that help make driving safer. Most of them hide behind names and acronyms that not everyone understands. Systems like ABS, ESP, BAS, traction control or blind spot control are part of the elements that have made their way in modern cars.

A car's 'cockpit' has become less like a wheel and a few levers and more like that of the Space Shuttle and a driver has to rely on a manual to learn all about the new gadgets or search You Tube or the internet.

With the changing mode of information and the constant advancement of telecommunications, it seems that you can never keep up with technological developments. Driving stress depends on the level of knowledge. The amount of data that the driver can visualize and take into account while driving can fatigue you and, even worse, distract your attention by taking care of other data and taking your eyes off the road.

Keep your Number Plate Clear

The number plate on a vehicle serves as a unique visible indicator that allows for the identification such as the vehicle's owner. It also serves to provide information such as the age of the vehicle.

In Spain, number plates used to carry a distinction which identified where the vehicle was registered. This can still be seen on some older vehicles, such as "M" for Madrid, "A" for Alicante or "MU" for Murcia. Now the number plates are formed by 4 numbers and 3 letters. There are apps available which will allow you to work back and show the age of a vehicle and you can check the full vehicle history on the DGT website dgt.es

Normally, the number plate must be displayed in a fixed location such as the bumper, at both the front and rear of the vehicle. Motorcycles and scooters (including microcars) must display their number plate at the rear.

There are very clear specifications for the number plate, in terms of the height of the characters, the colour, size and shape; all of which means that only certified manufacturers of number plates are allowed to make them. You are not allowed to simply take a piece of cardboard and colour it in!

Tampering with the original number plate is also an offence such as masking the real number of their vehicle by using tape or specialist sprays that claim to hide the numbers in the event of being snapped by a traffic camera.

Metal number plates faded in the sun, rendering them useless and illegal. If you do have a metal number plate, especially if it is faded, you should replace them immediately. Metal number plates were also prone to damage. Acrylic ones are far more resilient to damage and bending and last considerably longer.

The number plate must be visible at all times, day and night and must not be obscured by anything, including dirt. At night, it must be illuminated.

You are also not allowed to alter the number plate, such as putting stickers or name tags on it.

Only number plates which are certified for use in Spain can be used on vehicles registered in Spain. If you are towing a trailer you must replicate the vehicle's number plate at the back, in addition to the unique number plate of the trailer, if applicable.

New Restrictions to Improve Safety

To protect cyclists, the plan is to restrict the maximum permitted speed on certain roads and on certain days when there is a possibility of an increase in the number of cyclists using the routes, such as Sunday mornings. Cyclists should be made to respect the road and traffic laws. It is not uncommon that motorists become frustrated at the seemingly selfish attitude of cyclists who fail to practice respect.

Another improvement will be restricting the movement of certain trucks on conventional roads which have become "black spots", providing alternative routes for these vehicles away from the most dangerous sections.

Common Causes of Road Rage

Haste, noisy environments, many people in a confined space, stress that accompanies our daily lives are all situations that increase our aggressiveness behind the wheel. Some people react aggressively on the grounds of sex against women, against novice and older drivers. Racism and even a person's clothing can cause an increase in driver aggression. Seeing a driver using a mobile phone or carrying out a seemingly dangerous or unnecessary manoeuvre, or speeding, can all increase the stresses of driving. Many of these factors are illegal, as they can all be extremely dangerous.

Amongst the most common bad habits is "aggressive driving".

  • Blocking junctions, such as a vehicle stopping in the middle of a crossroads when their exit isn't clear, thus blocking the flow of traffic across the junction when the priority changes.
  • Centre-lane hogging on motorways, or remaining in the left-hand lane on a motorway. In Spain we drive on the right, as far right as possible and although multiple lanes exist for overtaking, a vehicle must return to the right-hand lane once the move is complete, subject to instructions from signs and signals.
  • Weaving in and out of lanes in a traffic jam causes frustrations, as this impedes the flow of the lane that the vehicle is joining and can amplify delays for everybody waiting.
  • Dazzling oncoming vehicles because our headlights are not set correctly or we may have them on full beam unnecessarily. Fog lights should only be used in the case of a severe reduction in visibility.
  • Having a light out is frustrating, dangerous and illegal situation. At night, a car with only one headlight may be confused for a motorcycle. Having a back light or brake light missing is extremely dangerous, which is why it is illegal.
  • Stealing parking spaces is high on the list of frustrations when you have waited patiently for a vehicle to vacate the space.
  • Sneaking past traffic queues by using the hard shoulder or slip road is equally frustrating for many. Some drivers will actively accelerate in order to prevent a vehicle from joining the main carriageway. This increase in speed also means that your vehicle is heading faster towards a potential collision situation. It is far better to back-off to allow vehicles to join the flow of traffic with you.
  • Overtaking – a vehicle is only allowed to overtake if it can return to the flow of traffic safely in front of the vehicle it wants to pass. If another vehicle prevents its safe return by increasing speed, then the situation becomes extremely dangerous.
  • Failing to maintain the correct distance from the vehicle in front is a very dangerous and illegal move. Maintaining a safe distance is crucial at all times.
  • Failing to use indicators. They should be used BEFORE a manoeuvre is carried out. Remember - Mirror – Signal – Manoeuvre. Make sure indicators are cancelled once the move is complete.