The key to safer driving not only lies in the hands of those on the roads, but also in the hands of those
responsible for carrying out work on our vehicles.
Although the authorities do everything they can to close them down, there are still many garages and
workshops that are not authorised to carry out any form of vehicle repair, and although many of them
do a good job perhaps for less money, there are many who put all road users at risk.
An illegal workshop is a fraudulent business model, often conducted on unlicensed premises, and often
without the requisite regulatory permits, access to technical information on vehicles or the approval
from vehicle manufactures to carry out repairs. They often also fail to comply with health and safety and
environmental legislation and often carry out work without issuing invoices and without any form of
The frightening fact is that according to official sources, although no official figures exist, it is estimated
that 20% of workshops across Spain are currently operating without the relevant licenses. A situation
exacerbated by the economic crisis, which has led many consumers to turn to these fraudulent
workshops, attracted by lower prices, without being fully aware of the consequences.
Inferior work, low price and unofficial parts, cheap labour and a lack of guarantee all undermine the
rights of a consumer, and is a practice punishable by law.
On the other hand, legal and approved workshops have the necessary machinery and the right tools for
repairs, access to the most up to date technical information for vehicle, they only use approved and
traceable spare parts, guarantee repairs through the production of an invoice and provide continuous
training for their employees.
Therefore, only the legal establishments can ensure proper handling of the vehicle, resulting in
increased road safety by reducing the risk of accidents.
The technical information of the vehicle provides the guidelines set by the manufacturer to ensure
proper handling and repair, minimizing risks, ensuring optimal performance and extending its life. Only
legally established workshops have access to this guide to ensure proper repairs of each model vehicle.
The traceability of parts refers to garages being able to ensure the origin. In a legally established
workshop the consumer can be sure that the piece is approved, which is required for that type of car
that has all manufacturer warranties. In illegal workshops where it is not traceable, installed parts can
have very varied origins including from crashed or scrapped vehicles and sometimes through theft.
Due to the increasing complexity of vehicles it is essential that mechanics attend training courses that
are held periodically that provide the guidelines for the proper repair of all types of vehicles. The
mechanics are quickly outdated if they do not receive these courses, which only legal workers can have
The question of course is how does one identify an illegal workshop? Unfortunately, they are not always
easy to recognise, but there are some tell-tale signs to look out for.
A legal workshop will always provide a printed quote for work in advance, and will also provide an
invoice and guarantee afterwards.
Illegal workshops are usually in places where they work behind closed doors, sometimes in garages of
private homes, sometimes even in the street.
The most important clue of all is that official and legally approved workshops have a nameplate granted
by the Ministry of Industry and are required to display this plate at the property entrance. Illegal
workshops will have no such accreditation displayed.
The nameplate will display a variety of information relating to the work that can be done at the
workshop. For example, the top part of the plate will display the type of work which can be done on the
premises. A picture of a wrench indicates mechanics, a jagged arrow indicates electrics, a hammer is for
bodywork and a spray gun for painting.
Halfway up, on the left are icons which indicate areas of expertise, such as wheels and tyres, radiators or
injection engines for example. To the right, an image will be displayed if the workshop is authorised to
Finally, at the bottom of the plate, there is a space which will display the provincial hallmark and the
official registration number of the workshop as provided by the Ministry of Industry.
Although it will be difficult to ensure your complaints are heard in the event of using an illegal
workshop, there is a way of reporting your suspicions to the authorities to investigate and take action
against illegal operators. This can be done on the website of the confederation of Spanish workshops.
CETRAA, at www.cetraa.com/sala-de- denuncia/
Changes in the weather provides significant risk to road users, and so our driving must be adapted at
Rain is one of the biggest contributors to weather related incidents.
In Spain, long, dry periods are often followed by significant rainfall.
In the first rainfall after a dry spell, the roads are particularly hazardous, as water falls onto the dust
and surface coating on the road, creating extremely poor adhesion in places.
Plus, drainage systems are not always able to cope with the immediacy of the downpour, and so
roads become flooded, particularly in dips which are designed to control the flow of water.
When driving in wet weather, slow down and allow extra distance between you and the car in front.
This will mean that you should allow extra time for your journey, or be prepared to arrive late. It is
far better to arrive late, than not at all.
Movements should be slow and steady, not harsh, to ensure your tyres are able to maintain as much
grip as possible, and if you think you or your vehicle are not prepared to drive in wet conditions,
Windscreen wipers and headlights will allow for better visibility, not only for you, but other road
Take care, take it easy and take it slow.
Do We Have to Wear a Hat?
This week, we received a question from Costa Blanca People reader, John Bevan, from Quesada.
John asked, “Is it true that drivers of open top cars must wear some sort of hat to protect them from the intense rays of the sun?”
The answer is, according to law, no, you don´t. In fact, there is a chance that wearing a hat would prove dangerous as if it is not worn correctly, the wind could catch it, and blow the hat away and this could then become a potential hazard to other road users, especially the most vulnerable such as cyclists. However, the likelihood of this happening is slim, it is still a potential risk.
Of course not talking legally, it does make sense to wear a hat in order to protect yourself from the sun and its damaging rays as you say, but it is not a legal requirement.
The question does open up other points for comment, however, regarding open top cars. As much as possible, the manufacturers of these vehicles design them to be as safe as cars with full roofs. They are often fitted with strengthened supports around the windscreen for example, and roll bars, although these are not often as clearly identifiable as those fitted in rally cars, for example, in commercially available vehicles they are often integral to the structure.
So long as we are positioned correctly, sat down, wearing our seatbelt in the correct manner, open top cars are usually perfectly safe. Like all vehicles, It is when we don´t follow the design and safety guidelines when things go wrong.
Sometimes, vehicle occupants are seen with their hands held up or out of the cars, on a rare occasion even standing. Only recently, a vehicle was observed driving along the N-332 with the passenger standing up. This was not an open top car but it had a sunroof. We don´t need to be so graphic as to describe the likely outcome if that vehicle was involved in a collision of some form. You must keep your extremities, arms, legs etc., well within the confines of the vehicle for the roll bars to provide protection.
On the subject of legs, it is an increasingly common sight to see passengers with their legs up and feet on the dashboard. This also occurs in all types of vehicles and seems to increase with the summer months. It is an extremely dangerous practice. It is also illegal. The legs and feet can obscure the driver´s view, but worse than that, in the event of a collision there are two very common injuries, both of which often result in such serious injuries, amputation is common.
In the event of a collision, the airbags are normally deployed. If a passenger´s legs are over these airbags they will feel the full force of that deployment, which normally results in fractures to the legs, sometimes pelvic damage. If airbags do not deploy it is easy for the body to be thrown forward, underneath the seatbelt, an action known as submarining. This forces the body, feet first, like a torpedo through the windscreen, resulting in severe lacerations, often accompanied by fractures.
The only safe way to sit in any vehicle is within the design of the seat, with seatbelt securely fastened. You can read more about this on the n332.es website where we have a number of articles explaining in more detail.
Back in October 2015, the Costa Blanca People began featuring our Driving in Spain column where readers were invited to ‘ask the Guardia Civil’ about motoring in Spain. The column was run in conjunction with the N332 volunteers – the group behind the hugely popular Facebook page and website.
We are delighted to announce this week that after over a year and a half working together, we have decided to further concrete our good relationship and along with our partners at Moneycorp currency exchange, the Costa Blanca People will be official sponsors of the N332.
Pride of Spain award winner, Francisco Morales, is a Guardia Civil Traffic Officer and along with his Guardia Civil colleagues and fellow N332 team member Mark Nolan, the group spends great time and energy replying to people’s questions about motoring laws. Francisco told us, “Some driving laws are universal – like obeying the speed limit, or not using your mobile phone while driving. However, some are unique to Spain – for example, did you know that if you are towing a trailer, you are obliged to carry a fire extinguisher? My colleagues and I from the N332 advice group want to ensure that drivers aren’t fined unfairly because of lack of local knowledge. We can do this through our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/DrivingSpain) and the website N332.es which is run by Mark Nolan to help us spread the word. However, as not everyone has internet access, or Facebook, collaborating with the Costa Blanca People is a great way for us to get the message out to the English speaking community on the Costa Blanca.”
What does this new collaboration mean for our readers? You will have access to more regular advice with a weekly Driving in Spain column by the N332’s Mark Nolan. Not only that, but the Costa Blanca People and N332 will be working together on a number of events and projects during the year to raise even more awareness of motoring laws in Spain among international drivers here.
The Facebook page has grown immensely in the last 18 months having increased its followers from 14,000 to 101,377 (and counting!).
The team at N332 are also holding a series of talks and presentations and recently, met with the children of Phoenix International School (See Mark’s article, below).
These local presentations are invaluable as a means of spreading correct information. Francisco told us, “There is a lot of misinformation around – for example, people think it is the law to carry spare bulbs in the car with you and that you will be fined if you don’t. However, this is not always the case as in some cars, the lights can only be fixed by a mechanic and in this case, it is not obligatory to carry spare bulbs. Bit by bit, we are trying to make sure everyone has the most up to date, correct information.”
Managing Director of the Costa Blanca People, Claire Richards said, “We are thrilled to announce this important collaboration with N332 and Moneycorp. We have always been great admirers of the hard work and dedication of the team of volunteers and are excited at the prospect of working together in the future to ensure safer roads.”
Send your questions about driving in Spain to firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t forget you can find more advice about driving in Spain at www.facebook.com/DrivingSpain and from the website N332.es