If you drive in Spain – whether daily if you live here, when visiting if you own a second home, or occasionally if you hire a car while here on holiday – you should be aware of an important change in the law which will affect your road use, effective as of 7 March (next Monday).
The speed limit on motorways in Spain is being reduced from 120km/h to 110km/h. This brings it into line with the limit in the UK and other European countries (from 74.5mph to 68mph).
The change has come in response to the unrest in north Africa and the Middle East, specifically, the rise in oil prices caused by revolution in Libya (80% of whose oil is exported to Europe, with Libya being Spain’s second-largest supplier after Iran). With this emergency measure, announced just two weeks ago, on 25 February, it is hoped to reduce petrol consumption by 15%, and diesel by 11% (called gasolina and gasoleo, respectively). In total, the estimated savings will run to 1400 million euros, calculated according to the amount of oil saved: 18 million barrels.
Since the price of petrol has gone up considerably in recent days, most of us will be thinking about economising on our car journeys in any case: fewer where possible, and driving more slowly.
The cost of changing all the 6,000 road signs which show the speed limit on Spain’s motorways is 250,000 euros – a sticker will be placed over the current signs (happy times for the Alicante company which produces these stickers).
Naturally, there are those who don’t agree with this measure: some have pointed out that the longer time taken on journeys by those travelling for business purposes, whether for deliveries, logistics, public transport or other needs, together with the reduced amount of taxes earned on fuel, will provoke a loss of 0.2 to 0.3% in economic growth, costing 3,000 million euros per year. Formula One driver Fernando Alonso commented that “It will be hard to stay awake” driving at a mere 110km/h. For him, maybe.
Drivers’ associations have said that the new limit may increase the rate of accidents, as when the speed limit was similarly reduced during the oil crisis of 1976.
Other new measures being introduced by the government include cutting the ticket prices of Cercanias (local commuter trains – in Andalucia, they run in Seville, Cadiz and Malaga) and medium-distance trains - as well as, possibly, those for subways and buses – by five per cent. This is intended to encourage motorists to leave their cars at home. As always, there are those who will say that the public transport system needs to be made efficient before expecting people to depend on it to take them to work.
The government also intends to save energy in public buildings and on roads by using low-consumption light bulbs (if they don’t already), to increase the proportion of biodiesel used in diesel fuel, and to reduce the number of cars for official use (remember two-Jag Prescott?). Not to mention, making sure that lights are not left on in buildings over night. One government minister expressed his outrage at seeing empty office blocks left with all their lights blazing. Looks pretty and discourages burglars, but not good for the environment.
So, remember: as of next Monday, don’t go over 110km/h on Spanish motorways. But please make sure you don’t drop off while driving, either.