By on June 16, 2009

Spain’s Congress of Deputies last Wednesday gave approval to a measure that makes it a crime to use a GPS (a.k.a. satellite navigation) device while behind the wheel. The provision appeared as part of a broader legislation designed to update the traffic code with measures that encourage motorists to pay fines without challenge. Radar detectors are already illegal in Spain. But because satellite navigation devices come as factory options on most modern vehicles, officials could not easily outlaw their ownership. Instead, government ministers proposed to restrict GPS use since the devices are increasingly being loaded with maps that warn motorists of locations where speed cameras are in use.

“Driving using helmets, headsets or other devices that reduce the emphasis on driving or manually using mobile phones, navigation devices or any other communication system,” earns three points and a €200 (US$275) fine, according to the legislation.

On the table of offenses, using a GPS is now more serious than driving 30 MPH over the speed limit which merits just two points. To encourage prompt payment of speeding tickets, the legislation also removes points altogether for driving less than 19 MPH over the limit on a freeway. The €100 (US$140) fine is discounted by half as long as it is paid immediately.

The most serious punishment of all goes to anyone convicted of attempting to thwart a speed camera with a laser or radar jamming device or a radar detector. This represents more points than is awarded for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) and is equal to the number of points for an aggravated DUI.

“Driving vehicles with mechanical equipment or systems installed that are designed to evade traffic monitoring, or with devices that have the same intention, as well as use of radar detection systems,” earns six points according to the legislation.

The Ministry of the Interior will be responsible for developing regulations to implement the legislation within six months of becoming law.

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15 Comments on “Spain Cracks Down on Radar Detectors, Laser Jammers and . . . Sat Nav...”

  • avatar

    I came up with so many witty comments to add, my head exploded.

  • avatar

    ¡Ay carajo!!!…

    So… why exactly is people going to order sat nav in their cars?

    Oh yeah… to search for some paella.

  • avatar

    The Spanish speakers may want to examine the law carefully. I speak a little , but not enough to decipher legalese.

    What I know is that in Spain
    + Radar detectors and of course jammers have been oulawed for many years, as they are in nearly all of Europe
    + The use of mobile phone is outlawed, libe everywhere
    + but strangely, the use of headsets (wired or bluetooth) also
    + as for GPS, it had been debated to outlaw the reprogramming (put in new destination etc.) while driving, but using them was legal.

    Spanish speakers, to the front, please

  • avatar

    I am amazed at the creativity of European politicos! I mean, come on, shifting gears and turning the wheel is probably as distracting as watching a navigation device, when will they outlaw that?

    Seems the politicians have way too much time on their hands, Spaniards – and probably the rest of Europe, too – shuld sack at least half of their elected officials, they are not focusing on what they should focus on, only dreaming up new schemes whose purpose are twofold:

    1) Subdue the natives
    2) Line the pockets of local and national governments!

  • avatar

    What it says about GPS is:

    4. Son infracciones graves, cuando no sean constitutivas de delito, las conductas tipificadas en esta Ley referidas a:
    f) Conducir utilizando manualmente dispositivos de telefonía móvil, navegadores o cualquier otro sistema de comunicación.

    That loosely translates to: 4. These are serious violations: […] f) Driving manually using mobile phone devices, navigation devices or any other communication systems.

    So it seems to me that Bertel is correct: you can use GPS as long you don’t manipulate it while driving. Interestingly, it says “utilizando manualmente”; this implies you are using your hands. So in theory you could use voice commands to control your devices without breaking the law…

  • avatar

    Given that every speed camera I’ve seen in Spain has a giant, EU mandated warning 1 KM ahead that you are about the photographed, I don’t see the need for GPS or the need to ban them.

    Given how distracted Spanish drivers are, anything that can make them focus on the road would be a win.

  • avatar

    Muchas gracias, black cat. That’s the way I recall it … has been debated for 2 years at least.

  • avatar

    De nada, Bertel. It looks like this GPS ban is not going to be very effective, giving the way it is written.

    Saludos desde Mexico.

  • avatar

    Interestingly, it says “utilizando manualmente”; this implies you are using your hands.

    Yes, that’s what I think it implies.

    Still, it’s amusing for me to think of GPS units and cell phones being banned only if you’re driving a manual gearbox, but if you’re driving an automatic, hey, you don’t need both hands for that so using a phone or GPS at the same time is ok.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    So, what’s the fuss?

  • avatar

    Martin: The Newspaper needs a Spanish lesson. Or a lecture about the difference between “using” and “manually operating” a device.

  • avatar

    Which has a higher probability?

    1. Getting a speeding ticket
    2. Having your well-installed hidden radar detector/laser jammer discovered?

    Officer, I’m not sure what that stuff is — it was on this used car when I purchased it. Works here, will work there as well.


  • avatar

    I second what gato_negro says. The law wants your hands off the electronics while you’re driving. On some tight curves in Spain, I’ve even seen “you must have BOTH hands on the wheel” signs and there are local stories of people getting ticketed for scratching an itch.

    Reading through the introduction section… great strides in safety, must keep advancing, bla bla bla… Apparently Spain has 30 million vehicles and 25 million drivers – and 15 million citations a year. The author goes on to say that sounds big but other countries in Europe multiply it tenfold. New issues caused by the use of traffic cameras relating to driver identification, bla bla bla…

    And here’s all there is about using GPS systems with speed camera locations marked:

    “Vehicles shall be provisionally immobilized [impounded] in cases that: … k) It is discovered that the vehicle is equipped with mechanisms or systems with the purpose of eluding the vigilance of traffic Agents and means of control via image capture [cameras].”

    It’s under the “Provisional Measures” chapter. I know Spanish, but not legalese… it says that the authorities [in charge of traffic] may adopt these measures, but I don’t trust myself on this. Later in the article it does put as many points on your license (6) for having one of those traffic control evasion systems “such as a radar detector.” I suppose you could read that to include GPS systems that have camera locations on them, but that isn’t clearly the intent.

    Anyway, Spain’s recent nanny-state attitude is strange to me. It just seems so un-Spanish. Even during Franco’s era, when a group of three guys on the street would be broken up by police for possibly being subversive, there was little control over people doing dangerous or stupid things. I think what happened is that Spain saw how wealthy, clean, and “civilized” the US and Northern Europe were, and decided they had better copy everything they do. On one side, it’s sad and ignores the cultural differences between different areas. On the other, the death rate is going down and other aspects of the cultural shift are good, like the attention being paid to domestic violence.

    Everyone – and I mean everyone – seems to have lost a friend to a motorcycle accident at some point. Now all the motorcycles have been replaced by cars (which is a MESS in those old, small streets) and people aren’t dying so much.

  • avatar

    Dangit, stingray, now I’m hungry for paella.

  • avatar

    Just as I suspected…la cámara de diputados Española no tiene madre.

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