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Motoring in Spain Book Update, April 2007

ANDALUCIA.  -  IT IS NOW EASIER TO ORGANISE TAKING YOUR VEHICLE FOR AN ITV.

Only reported to apply in Andalucia at this time, vehicle owners may now receive an SMS message on their mobile when their vehicle is due to go for the periodical technical inspection for the condition of their vehicles.   Also the time and date can be reserved on the Internet and those needing an appointment can call 902 575 757 to find out times, prices and locations and the documents they need to take with them.  You need to speak Spanish though, of course.

 Intended to prevent the queues that sometimes occur, making an inspection a task of hours instead of the approximately ten minutes it actually takes for a family car, the service should help, but no mention is made of there being someone at the number supplied who can speak other than Spanish.

The addresses and telephone numbers of all ITV stations in Spain are in the Trafico web-site as noted in the book.

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Motorcycle accidents on the rise. 30 April 2007

Those of us who live in Spain know, or should by now especially if you have my book, that the government department called Trafico, which is part of the Ministry of the Interior, is responsible for all matters connected with the Spanish road system as far as the vehicles are concerned and the safe passage of them.  One of the duties of Trafico is the producing of accident statistics and they have just announced that the percentage of "moto" riders being killed or injured in Spanish cities is now the fault in 72% of cases of car and light-vehicle drivers.  Their web site is at www.dgt.es

To us who have lived here for more than a few months, with the sight in mind of crazy scooter and moped riders cutting through traffic, ignoring traffic lights, stop signs and other safety intended "road furniture", this statement must be accompanied by the thought, "Ah yes, but most of the accidents must be their fault!"  But the Trafico report is based on the findings in each case where blame has been fairly apportioned, so the 72% figure is reported as correct.  The "crazy ones" are in the other 28%.

As a once very keen motorcyclist who has ridden two and three-wheelers (no, not the Del-boy type Reliants), but all types including off-road racing machines in the USA (two years) and Africa (25 years) for sport and competition, and the three wheelers including "Mini-Cooper eating" sidecar outfits powered by a magnificent 1.000 cc Vincent motorcycle, (the old-timers will know what I mean), I can believe the figures.  The problem here in Spain is that since 2004, when to improve traffic conditions in especially the cities and to reduce fuel consumption, owners of the standard "B" car driving licence were allowed to ride two wheeler up to 125 cc engine size depending on the length of time of holding the licence. 

But there is no organisation in Spain where for a reasonable cost, people can go and learn how to ride a two-wheeler safely in modern traffic.  Every day I see even powerful machines being ridden far too closely (3 points) to the rears of vehicles that can stop or quickly slow down much more quickly than the rider has even the "reaction time" to avoid hitting the vehicle in front.  Therefore the deduction from this is that there are many more moto-riders on the roads especially in the cities, than there were two years ago and in fact, this web site on another page reports that in 2006, the sales of motos up to 125 cc had more than doubled compared with 2005.   Many are just taking advantage of the cheaper transport and have not had any specialist training and 70% of moto accidents occur in the cities, which is easy to understand when you put the two facts together.

One of the serious findings is that despite the penalty points (3) now including this offence, far too many are not wearing an approved crash-helmet properly fastened.  You only need to hit a kerb with your head at 2 kph to suffer death or serious brain damage.  In fact, I feel sad when I see quad-bike riders who are so exposed, riding without helmet, but I read also that the sales of these machines are declining as the novelty wears off.   As a once avid off-road rider in Africa and the USA, I could never see the point in them except on loose sand and I believe that they were originally intended for farm work.  I know that years ago in the USA, some States banned them due to the numbers of off-road accidents involving serious injuries when used a s an off-road fun vehicle.

As a result of this 72% figure, Trafico are to include in the car-test questions about two wheelers to heighten the awareness of all road users.  However, that would only be effective in about 10 years as these new drivers are more numerous on Spains'  highways and byways.

In the 1960s and 1970s in the UK, I was a volunteer member of the RAC-ACU (Royal Automobile Club-Auto Cycle Union) Training Scheme where we used local public facilities to store donated by local motorcycle shops, small motorcycles and use classrooms where new riders, some even in their middle ages, would come along and for the princely sum of 10, attend a series of theory and practical courses where they would learn road-craft.  They were not intended to replace driving lessons as such but they were very effective in reducing the accident rates for two-wheeler riders.  The lessons also included basic machine maintenance with the emphasis on safety, with a nice certificate presented to those who completed the course and this was helpful in getting a good rate for insurance.. 

 Trafico now announces that they are to introduce more effective training for moto riders to try and make them safer in the cities, but I would have thought after all this time (the motorcycle preceded the car by about a year, so it is not exactly a new phenomenon.  But at this time, in Spain we have all been able to buy a two-wheeler (and certain other low powered vehicles as described in the book) with an engine size up to 49 cc and by simply getting a permit from the local ayuntamiento or policia local, plus insurance, it could be ridden especially by the most risky members of our road user groups, the 14 year olds originally, now 16 years, and ride it without any practical or theoretical courses at all as they are not considered to be motor vehicles, simply motorised bicycles.   But as any mechanically-minded youth will know, it is a simple job to modify the engine (even to fitting a 75 cc barrel) so they it can easily exceed the designed maximum speed of 50 - 60 kph.  With no road-craft and especially attitude training, is it no wonder that many are ridden by "kamikaze pilots"?  It is done because there are age limits on the engine sizes that can be ridden.

I even joined a volunteer team in South Arica, where I lived for 25 years until it became too dangerous, doing the same using an American sourced course complete with videos and booklets that was very successful.  The local motorcycle traffic police officially attended and the Chief later reported that the accident rates to his riders had dropped dramatically.  It was amazing to see people on big heavy machines who did not know how to handle them safely and all the practical was done at low speeds on a closed of big car park..

The point of this is perhaps Trafico needs to encourage this system here for existing riders.  I remember that we did get paid but it was only a small allowance for our fuel and "free coffee".   But we loved doing it as by reducing the accident rates to motorcycle riders, we helped improve the image and reduce (our) insurance rates. But how do you approach the Trafico chiefs now?    I have given up here in Malaga as they ignore my even going to the counter to arrange an interview and it is not just me, My Spanish friends have the same problems.  They seem to only call you as a journalist when they want to to announce some new scheme that experienced people could and have tried to suggest in the past.

MAY 2007

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