Driving in Spain

Living in the Algarve, a large number of our friends regularly drive through Spain to and from UK and Northern Europe. With a large number of reported hi-jack attempts in Spain over the past year, usually in and around the larger cities of Seville, Madrid and Barcelona, drivers of foreign registered cars are warned to be especially vigilant of robbers pretending to be police on lonely roads.

Incident one – A friend was travelling alone with a van and trailer, taking materials to his Algarve holiday home. On the outskirts of Madrid, he was flagged down by three men who stated they were police and wanted to search his van and trailer for drugs – they apparently had ID cards and were in uniform. He started getting suspicious when one of the men kept disappearing around the back of the vehicle. They took his car keys, passport, cash and credit cards and drove away. Luckily, he had a spare car key hidden in the car and drove on, rather shaken, into Madrid to report the incident. Local police told him he was very lucky because he could have easily been shot and left by the roadside!

Incident two – A couple were driving in northwest Spain when they were passed by what looked like a police car containing four men who waved them down. Realising that this was not the normal way of being stopped, the couple ignored the car and drove on. The ‘police car’ gave up presumably to look for easier prey.

Incident three – Caught in traffic in Barcelona, a couple noticed a young man on a scooter wearing a rather bulky glove on one hand and even commented on it, as it was about 38º outside. Suddenly, there was a shout from a taxi driver and the young guy swerved away from their car and drove away through the traffic. The taxi driver explained that scooter man was about to either smash their side window and grab what he could or he would have punctured their tyre and then when they pulled over offer to help and help himself to the contents of the car. Several versions of this have been reported even to the extent of shooting out tyres and then people appearing to help the stranded motorist. This is not a new scam but many incidents are going unreported. Spain is a major tourist driving area and I am sure they do not welcome bad publicity. How long is it before there is a really serious incident with somebody getting murdered?

Motorists are advised to keep a close eye on their belongings and car, keep as many items out of sight, i.e. cameras, handbags and so on, take the keys out of your car when refuelling, keep a watch on the car when stopping to eat and park somewhere safe when stopping overnight in hotels.

As for being stopped by police, I think I would ignore all such requests unless they were policemen dressed in full uniform with clearly marked police cars, blue lights, the lot and then I would try to stop in a petrol station or somewhere nearby people.

Stephen Cook, Vilamoura