Indicators and Roundabouts, two subjects that are a sure fire way to break the ice and build up a bond with any expat in any bar across the country. Most expats have tales of Spanish drivers cutting them off, swerving in front of them, indicating right and turning left and so the story continues. It’s a hot bed for discussion and open to a variety of interpretations, and that’s were the problem mostly lies.

Driving in Spain
Driving in Spain

The problem can possibly be traced back to the days of Franco, when Spain had few if any dual carriageways and no roundabouts at all. Since joining the EEC (today’s EU) and receiving money for improvements to the crumbling infrastructure of the country, successive governments have ploughed billions of Euros into improving Spain’s roads. However, although new legislation keeps being added to Spain’s Highway Code (codigo de la circulación – available at most good Spanish Bookshops ) the problem exists in that generation after generation in Spain, passed their driving tests, some without ever even having seen a roundabout! Thus, there is much confusion, not just amongst the Spanish but also the 140 or more nationalities that live here who also may have been taught a different way to negotiate roundabouts. The best rule is that when driving in Spain, expect the unexpected, assume nothing and drive defensively.

Baring in mind that the person in front of you will do as they please anyway, what actually are the laws of the land and should you be involved in an altercation? Whose insurance company will pay for the damage?

Unlike any other intersection, Roundabouts give us four options:

Case 1. We continue straight (the second exit)
Case 2. We take the first exit off the roundabout (right) 

Case 3. We leave the third exit from the roundabout (left) 

Case 4. We go all the way around to the left to make a U-turn.

Case 1. You should be in the right hand lane to continue through the roundabout.
Case 2. You should be in the right hand lane and take the first exit.
Case 3. You should be in the left hand lane when you reach the roundabout, indicate left and after passing the second exit (straight ahead) indicate right and exit.
Case 4. As turning left except you indicate right after the third exit.

Roundabouts in Spain
Roundabouts in Spain

But, we all know that in Spain the danger is that someone in the right hand lane will want to turn left. They may or may not use their indicators to complete this manoeuvre! If you are in the left lane, you must drive defensively otherwise there is a chance that you may be hit by the driver on the right who ‘assumes’ that they have the right of way or they say cut you off and you run the chance of driving into the side of their car or slamming on your brakes only to be tailgated by the car behind!

One problem in the case of an accident is the interpretation of the law. If the driver turning left from the right lane is Spanish and the Police are called, much of the blame may lie with the interpretation of the rules, rather than what the law states. Even if you are in the right, if you are not carrying all the correct documentation in your car, you can find yourself at fault and paying for the accident that another driver caused.

Thus, it’s still very much a grey area as to who may end up being blamed for an accident. If you are in the right hand lane and going straight ahead, you will be correct and an accident shall be avoided. Drive defensively at all times and expect that at sometime someone in the right hand lane will want to exit to the left no matter how much this manoeuvre does not make any common sense to you or I.

Happy motoring. Drive safely in 2010/