New road traffic regulations in force

A number of new road traffic regulations came into effect on January 1 – including changes to the etiquette on roundabouts, drink-drive limitations and new rights for cyclists. There are also new rules regarding child booster seats and news for all those who thought biking was free.
But first to roundabouts, where fines for those who are not aware of changes can reach €300. It is now prohibited to travel on the lane furthest to the right unless the driver means to take the next immediate exit. Failure to comply with this new rule will incur fines between €60 and €300.
Alcohol limits are also tougher now for professionals, such as taxi- or bus-drivers, as well as those in possession of ‘new’ licences (less than three years old). The new limits are 0.2 grams of alcohol per litre of blood as opposed to the previous 0.5 grams.
Speed limits are also changing. A 20 km/h limit has been introduced for urban areas or places considered those where cars, pedestrians and cyclists “co-exist”.
There is also the new rule that everyone now must carry a Cartão de Contribuinte (tax card) if they do not have a Cartão de Cidadão (single identification card). This rule will affect ‘estrangeiro’ resident drivers as well as quite a few Portuguese who still carry a Bilhete de Identidade.
And before you think that is it, there is another new catch in the ‘Happy New Year’ Highway Code, this time regarding ear-pieces. Only single ear-pieces are allowed to be used by drivers. Thus, anyone using a double ear-piece (even if one plug is left dangling) will be liable for a fine.
Also, it is likely that some parents will breathe a sigh of relief knowing that children under 12 years of age measuring 1.35m in height no longer need to travel in booster seats. With the new regulations, the minimum height limit was brought down from 1.50m.
In anticipation of a welcome increase in the number of fines to be awarded, the new Highway Code will now allow drivers the possibility of paying for infractions in instalments – as long as the total fine is over €200 and the instalment is over €50.
More rights and responsibility for cyclists
Cyclists however will benefit from some welcome changes. For example, they will now be allowed to benefit from situations in which they have right-of-way or travel in pairs. And drivers overtaking cyclists need to ensure they allow for a 1.5m distance from the bicycle. Children aged under 10 on bicycles are considered ‘pedestrians’, being able to ride on pavements.
But with more power comes more responsibility – and fines. Jorge Jacob, president of the national road safety association, said that cyclists should start taking on “more disciplined” behaviour due to the new road traffic regulations, which now places bicycles on a par with motorised vehicles. This means they may well have to obtain third party insurance, just as car drivers and motorcyclists – and if they are found to be riding on pavements or down one-way streets, they could be slapped with fines.
Jacob also revealed his authority would be organising road operations to target cyclists in order to inform them of 2014’s new regulations.