ROAD SAFETY

Government reform paves way for 130km/h speed limit on Spain’s roads

Tougher sanctions will be introduced for driving under the influence of alcohol or with traces of drug use

The Cabinet on Friday approved a raft of road safety reforms that pave the way for a speed limit of 130km/h on certain sections of Spain’s highways while also increasing the set fine for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs from 500 euros to 1,000.

Catalonia’s regional highways authority (SCT) said that it would not increase the speed limit on its roads due to an ageing vehicle pool as a result of the crisis and a slight upturn in fatal accidents. A cyclists association in the region on Friday presented the SCT with a video of 820 overtakes it considered a danger to bike users.

The reform will be passed to Congress for approval and is not expected to enter into effect until next March.

Other key elements of the reform concern driving under the influence; extending the obligatory use of helmets to all cyclists — the current law only covers minors; prohibiting the use of radar detectors, which will carry a fine of 200 euros and the loss of three points; and banning children under the age of 12 from traveling in the front passenger seat.

Punishments for driving with traces of drugs will be imposed even if the motorist is not under the influence, as the current law states. The “mere presence” of illegal substances in the body will be sufficient to impose a fine, with the sole exception being medication prescribed to treat addiction.

Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz noted when announcing the program that 47.3 percent of people killed in road traffic accidents in 2012 tested positive for alcohol, drugs or prescription medication. Pedestrians will also be submitted to a breathalyzer test if they commit an infraction, even if they have not been involved in an accident.

Merchant motorists will be penalized in the case that their cargo falls onto the road due to the “danger that this poses for other road users.”