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Driving and Autos: Driving Under the Influence

Drunk Driving Laws

Drunk driving is not uncommon in Spain, and it is a serious cause of fatalities. Approximately one-third of fatal driving accidents are caused by drunk driving. The legal drinking age is 18 in most regions of Spain—the same as the legal driving age. In some regions, such as Asturias, the legal drinking age is 16.

The legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.5 grams alcohol per liter of blood (or 0.25 milligrams per one liter of breath). New and professional drivers must maintain limits of 0.3 grams alcohol per liter of blood (or 0.15 milligrams per breath).

Sobriety Test

Spanish authorities may pull you over and administer a blood alcohol test at any time. It is usually done if you are observed driving erratically, or at the scene of an accident. Police in Spain sometimes perform random blood alcohol content (BAC) screenings.

If you test over the legal blood alcohol limit, you have the right to a second test 10 minutes after the first was administered. You can also request that the results from a Breathalyzer test be verified via a blood test, as these are more accurate. Bear in mind, however, that because of their greater accuracy, blood test results are more difficult to refute in court.

It is generally not a good idea to refuse a blood or breath test. If you have obvious symptoms of drunkenness or another form of intoxication, refusing a test is a legal offense. Fines could range from €300 to €600, and your license could be suspended for as many as six months.

Penalties for Driving Under the Influence

Consequences for drunk driving in Spain depend on your blood alcohol level. If your BAC was 0.05 to 1.2 percent, you could have your license suspended for up to three months, along with a fine of approximately €300 to €600. New drivers and those who drive for a living—such as bus drivers—may also gain four points on their licenses.

If your BAC is more than 1.2 percent, it becomes a criminal offense. Your license may be suspended from one to four years; and you could be imprisoned for three to six months. If your case is less severe, you may be able to avoid serving jail time by paying a fine or performing community service.

Social Attitudes toward Drinking

The Spanish attitude toward drink is less permissive than in many European countries. The typical serving size for beer in a bar is about a third the size of a British pint. Even so, people usually start drinking early in this country—often by the early teens—and drunk driving is increasingly being seen as a problem by the Spanish government.

As of 2012, the Ministry of the Interior’s traffic authority was considering implementing a “zero tolerance” policy that would make even a small amount of alcohol in the blood illegal and subject to penalties.