Foreign Office warns Brits of "highway pirates" in Spain

AOL Travel
british tourists warned of highway robbers in spain
british tourists warned of highway robbers in spain

British holidaymakers have been warned of Spain's highway robbers targeting foreign-registered and rented cars.

Gangs are operating on popular tourist routes, including between Barcelona and Alicante, and across Madrid and Andalucia, the Daily Mail reports.

The Foreign Office says: "Be aware of 'highway pirates' who target foreign-registered and hire cars, especially those towing caravans. Some will (forcefully) try to make you stop, claiming there is something wrong with your car or that you have damaged theirs.

"If you decide to stop to check the condition of your/their vehicle, stop in a public area with lights like a service station, and be extremely wary of anyone offering help."

The Foreign Office also warns tourists to be wary of bogus police officers in plain clothes travelling in unmarked cars. It says: "In all traffic-related matters, police officers will be in uniform, and all police officers, including those in plain clothes, carry official ID. Unmarked police vehicles have a flashing electronic sign on the rear window which reads Policía (Police) or Guardia Civil (Civil Guard), and normally have blue flashing lights.

"Genuine police officers will only ask you to show them your documents and will not ask for your bag or wallet/purse."

Holidaymakers should also be aware of new driving laws in Spain, introduced on 9 May 2014, which include:

- Speeding fines apply for exceeding the limit by just 1kmph. On some motorways, the speed limit is being increased from 120kph to 130kph, but in many towns, the speed limit is being reduced from 30kph to 20kph.

- The translation of the law dictates that children less than 1.35 metres tall are not allowed to travel in the front, although there are certain restrictive exceptions, such as vehicles without rear seats. The fine for not complying is 200 euro, and this rule also applies to taxis, but the responsibility is given to the parent or guardian, not the taxi driver.

- Traffic police will no longer have to stop a vehicle caught breaking the law and can issue a sanction remotely.

- Drivers should ensure 1.5 metres of lateral spacing when passing a bike, allowing cycles to occupy part or all of adjacent or opposite lanes, and ensuring that vehicles involved in overtaking moves must not jeopardise or hinder the progress of cyclist moving in the opposite direction.

- Drivers will become responsible in the event of hitting or killing a large animal on the roads. Until now, the driver was only responsible if it were proven that a law had been broken which led to an incident, now the responsibility is on the driver, unless negligence can be proven in the event of a lack of speedy repairs to fencing, for example.

- Speed camera/radar detectors are prohibited.

Jim Burrell, of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, told AOL Travel: "The last thing people want after a holiday is to arrive home and find a driving fine lying on the doormat. But when it comes to the law, ignorance is no excuse. Whether you're planning on hiring a car this summer or driving your own, Britons holidaying in Spain should be aware of these changes to the law and their new responsibilities on the road. Traffic offences carry costly fines and you may be fined or prosecuted without ever being pulled over."

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