Spanish Traffic Ticket

October 09, 2006 By: erik Category: Complaining, Musings, Spain 1,855 views

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I got my first Spanish traffic ticket this past weekend. It all happened like this…

On Friday, October 6, 2006, we were about 60% of the way to Madrid. I was driving. Mother Nature picked up the phone and suggested to me that I stop to urinate. Marga was dozing, and when I started to slow down on the ramp up to a rest stop, she asked why we were stopping. I explained about my full bladder. At the top of the ramp, at the entrance to the parking lot, there was a police car, and the officers were standing outside the car. They waved me over and told me to stop.

They asked for my license and the registration and insurance documents for the car. I gave him my license and explained that I was American. The car’s registration is in a nice wallet in the glove box, so we showed him that. But we couldn’t find the insurance information. There were lots and lots of papers in the glove compartment, many of them from our insurance company. We found the receipt from the first year we paid, which expired in March 2006. The officer seemed patient and told us to look for another paper that looked like the expired one. We showed him paper after paper, and he said that none of them were the receipt that we needed. I asked politely if I could run inside to relieve myself, and when I returned, he was writing out a ticket.

He said that we had five days to go into a traffic office and demonstrate that we really had insurance. The fine for not having it with us would be about 60€ ($75). Before we parted, Marga explained to the officer just how idiotic she thought that particular law is. He gave a “Yeah, well…” shrug and got in his car.

I’m all for requiring drivers to have insurance. That makes sense to me. And having proof in the car also seems like a good idea. However, I don’t think that a fine is necessary at all. I’m fine with having to demonstrate my insurance, but I think it should be possible over the phone. In England, you aren’t even required to have your driving license with you in the car. If the cops stop you and have reason to doubt that you have a license, you are required to go into a traffic office and show your license, or fax a copy to them. That seems like a better system.

What really ticked me off about the whole thing was how these cops were just sitting there in the parking lot randomly selecting cars. How lazy can you be? Aren’t there real crimes to be fighting?

So anyway, this morning Marga bursts into the bedroom at 8:00am and says that we’re going to Santander (the nearest traffic office). She had already gotten up, gone in to work, and started looking more carefully through the papers that we had in the car and found the insurance receipt!!! One of the papers that we gave to the officer was the receipt, and he told us that it wasn’t! So she had come back home to get me to go to Santander to resolve the problem.

The woman at the complaints desk was a typical government employee. She didn’t want to hear our story past knowing which papers to make a photocopy of for someone else to deal with. Marga filled out a form explaining what happened, and we gave it to the woman. Marga didn’t even get to use her line about how, if they didn’t believe us, they could dust the insurance receipt for prints and find the officer’s prints on it.

Who knows how many months and how much tax money will be spent fixing this lazy officer’s mistake. We have learned that we should know which papers are the important ones to facilitate the search when asked for them. We should have been more responsible. But, the fact still stands, that we did not break any law. The law requires you to have them and show them to the officer when asked. It’s his job to know how to read them. And finally, the insurance company deserves some blame for this fiasco, because the actual paper doesn’t look like what it is. It starts with “Dear Customer,” and looks very much like a letter to the customer. And the dates of validity are hidden in the middle of a table of information, all in fine print.

I’d say it’s about 50-50 on whether we’ll have to pay the 60€ or not. All this, just because I had to pee…

 
  • Betsy

    I guess the lesson here is to go before you leave home.

  • http://www.erik-rasmussen.com/ erik

    What motherly advice. For your information, I did go before leaving home, but we bought a liter bottle of water when we filled up the gas tank.

    I guess you could say I got a ticket for drinking and driving. :-)

  • jacob

    Criminal!

  • Uncle Steve

    I know every family has a black sheep…. I just didn’t know you were ours!

  • Frank E Mattimoe

    “I’m all for requiring drivers to have insurance. That makes sense to me. And having proof in the car also seems like a good idea.”

    Well that’s big of you. But suppose you don’t? It’s the law here, stupid.

    “However, I don’t think that a fine is necessary at all.”

    Well that’s tough. It’s the law here stupid.

    “I’m fine with having to demonstrate my insurance, but I think it should be possible over the phone.”

    ¿Are you by any chance related to georgeW?

    “In England, you aren’t even required to have your driving license with you in the car. If the cops stop you and have reason to doubt that you have a license, you are required to go into a traffic office and show your license, or fax a copy to them. That seems like a better system.”

    Great idea that one. For English people. Or for Americans living in England. But not here. This isn’t England. This isn’t the USA either. Hadn’t you noticed?

    “What really ticked me off about the whole thing was how these cops were just sitting there in the parking lot randomly selecting cars. How lazy can you be?”

    As lazy as a Yank who can’t be bothered to get his car papers in order and gets himself a $75 ticket as a result?

    “Aren’t there real crimes to be fighting?”

    There’s a crime called uninsured driving, which these lazy police were fighting against. Are are you so full of yourself that you can’t see that? Or that you can’t read the Spanish paperwork to show to the cop but instead pass him a sheaf of papers and then head for the bathroom? And you don’t have the language knowledge to show him the right paper before he writes your ticket?

    ¡Get real!

  • http://www.erik-rasmussen.com/ Erik R.

    Frank, it seems strange to me that someone with such a non-Spanish name would be so xenophobic about defending Spanish laws. Do you agree with all laws in Spain? Where are you from?

  • Frank E Mattimoe

    ¿Xenophobic?

    Where’s the evidence?

    ¿Hispanophilic? Guilty.

    If you go to a foreign country, it helps to like the local people and their way of doing things.

    Do I like all Spaniards, all Spanish customs or all Spanish laws? Hardly.

    But I do respond to elements of Spanish life which are not to my liking with a measure of discretion.

    And,if I fall foul of the Spanish legal system, my initial default position is that I was at fault for not following the local laws, rather than that the cops have it in for me and should that they should really be out chasing criminals.

    If I break the law then I’m the criminal. End of story.

  • Thomas Pryor

    Yah, never a good idea to drive uninsured. Might want to look at this site I found that talks about how to avoid getting a traffic ticket and how to find a traffic violations lawyer in the event that you do get one: http://www.lawfirms.com/directory/browse/lawyers/traffic-tickets

  • Rachel

    Hello Eric,

    I am currently in Spain on vacation from the US. My husband and I got pulled over this morning for not stopping at a stop sign. We were informed that we would have to pay the 100 euro fine on the spot. The only problem is we didn’t have cash on us, and were not permitted to go obtain cash. The next thing we knew a tow truck was called and we were given the option to get a taxi and pay for the tow truck and the fine. My problem is that we never denied the need to pay the ticket, but were never given the option to go obtain the money like another foreign driver was given. Where can I file a complaint?

    • http://www.erik-rasmussen.com/ Erik R.

      Wow, that’s really bad. After perusing the DGT website for a bit, I think you’ll probably have to go to your local Jefatura de Tráfico, which you can find here. Please post back if you succeed!