Government approves new Highway Code

The new Highway Code, due to come into force on New Year’s Day, will see a stiffening of penalties and a reclassification and upgrading of offences.

Daniel Sanches, Minister for Internal Administration, highlighted harsher penalties for drink-driving and dangerous manoeuvres. “Some offences hitherto considered ‘light’ will become serious and others already deemed ‘serious’ will become ‘very serious’,” he stressed.

Sanches also announced that the Director-General of Transport would now have the power to revoke a driver’s licence. Sanches said the new law aims to combat the “current sense of impunity”, felt by some lawbreakers. The Ministry of Internal Administration also envisages the eventual creation of a “national driving licence on the EU model”. Theory and aptitude tests will be restructured and psychological tests will also be introduced.

The new code is more severe than the previous one and increases fines for drink-driving, excessive speed, dangerous manoeuvres and use of mobile phones. Penalties of between 250 and 1,250 euros will be applied to those drivers caught with a blood alcohol content of between 0.5 g/l and 0.8 g/l, and fines of between 500 and 2,500 euros will apply to those caught driving with between 0.8g/l and 1.2g/l.

Car drivers who exceed speed limits by 60km/h and heavy goods drivers who exceed the limits by 40km/h on the open road will face fines of between 300 and 1,500 euros and 500 and 2,500 euros respectively. The same fines will be levied on drivers who exceed the limits by 40km/h for cars and 20km/h for heavy goods vehicles inside built up areas.

The minimum speed on motorways will be raised from 40km/h to 50km/h. Those who drive at an unjustifiably low speed that inconveniences other drivers will pay fines of between 60 and 300 euros. Drivers who use mobile phones will be fined between 120 and 600 euros. Those failing to wear a seat belt will be fined between 500 and 2,500 euros. In order to increase the effectiveness of the penalties the new Highway Code decrees that fines must be paid on the spot. If drivers have insufficient funds, they will have to make an initial deposit corresponding to the minimum range of the fine. Those who default on their fines will have to pay up in full or risk losing their vehicle and documents.

The Director General of Transport will now deal directly with offences and will also have the power to revoke driving licences. But drivers will be able to appeal to the courts following decisions. Drivers will now risk losing their licence if they commit three serious, or five very serious contraventions within a five-year period.