Can you be fined for smoking in the car? And for driving with flip-flops? What is different about pedestrian crossings that are painted red or blue? Is it mandatory to carry a fire extinguisher if you are pulling a trailer? How do you drive around roundabouts?
These are all questions that are asked every single day by thousands of international residents who drive on our local roads and highways. Many of the queries they don’t have answers too though, usually as a result of language difficulties and the differences in interpretation in their countries of origin.
Well you can find the answers to these and to many other similar questions on Facebook. Just search for “N332DrivingSpain”, a site created by Torrevieja Civil Guard Traffico agent Francisco Morales and you will be able to resolve the large majority of the questions you may have.
Morales, who has been a Civil Guard Traffico Officer since 2007, along with a number of his colleagues, had the idea for the page about 3 years ago. The Traffico officers realised that many of the cars they stopped for violations were driven by foreigners. Few of them understood any Spanish and it was often very difficult to explain why they were being sanctioned.
The Facebook page was a way of resolving many of those difficulties and less than 3 years later the page has over 100,000 followers and is also replicated with its own website.
“English is understood by everyone,” said Morales, “not just the British. Germans, Scandinavians and Russians can also usually get by with the language.” That is something that is demonstrated on the page where the simple explanations are accompanied by videos or images by way of illustration.
Francisco does all this in his free time although he is assisted by many of his colleagues and by British expat Mark Nolan who has also been instrumental in the development of the resource.
Morales explains that it is a myth that more sanctions are issued to foreigners. “It’s just a matter of proportion,” he says, while explaining that although ignorance of the law does not exempt them from enforcement, the police use common sense when it comes to issuing tickets. He says that “It’s unfair to fine someone who does not know that he’s breaking the rules.”
But despite the presence of thousands of foreign visitors and residents, EU and non – EU drivers, traveling and driving along roads in Spain, the Directorate General of Traffic (DGT) has only one small part of its many functions translated into English: that which explains how to pay fines.
It’s just as well then, that there are such officers and volunteers as Francisco Morales, Mark Nolan and the Torrevieja Traffico team, who have taken the initiative, while the DGT continue to drag their feet.