Driving in Spain: What changes in 2023?

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Alcohol is one of the risk factors most frequently involved in traffic accidents in Spain and is found in between 30 and 50 percent of fatal accidents, according to the Directorate-General for Traffic (DGT).

As the amount of alcohol in the body increases, so does the risk of an accident. With a blood alcohol level of 0.5 grammes of ethanol per litre of blood, the risk of a crash is doubled, and with 0.8 g/l, the risk is five times greater, the DGT states. 

The risk is even higher in young drivers or those who have less driving experience.

What are the legal limits?

  • 0.5 grammes of alcohol per litre of blood, which equates to 0.25 milligrammes of alcohol per litre of air exhaled.
  • In the case of those who have only held a licence for under two years, as well as professional drivers, the limit is lowered to 0.4 grammes of alcohol per litre of blood, which is 0.15 milligrammes per litre of air exhaled.
  • Those under the age of 18 are not allowed to use an e-scooter or moped if they have drunk any alcohol at all. 

The DGT stresses that even below the legal limit, the risk of an accident may already be increased and that the only really safe limit is 0.0 grammes per litre.  

What does this mean in terms of number of drinks? 

For men who weigh between 70-90kg 

Beer: It’s safe to drink one 330ml beer, however, a second beer will take you nearer to the limit or possibly over. If you indulge in three beers, you will definitely be over the limit.  

Wine: It’s possible to drink two 100ml glasses, but a third will take you very close to the limit. For vermouth it’s similar.  

Liquor: If liquor is your drink of choice, you can drink two 45ml glasses, but again and third will be pushing it, apart from brandy where one is safe, but a second will take you very close to going over.

Mixed drink: For a drink containing alcohol combined with a mixer, such as gin and tonic or rum and coke, you can safely drink one 50ml glass, but another one may take you over the limit.  

For women who weigh 50-70kg  

Beer: Only one 330ml bottle of beer is safe to drink, two or more will take you over the limit.  

Wine: Similarly, only one 100ml glass of wine is acceptable.  

Vermouth: It’s only really safe to drink one 70ml glass of vermouth, a second will be pushing it and a third will definitely take you over the limit.  

Liquor: Like vermouth, drinking one 45ml glass of liquor is ok, but a second may take you over.  

Mixed drink: Even one mixed drink with 50ml of alcohol such as a gin and tonic could possibly take you over the legal limit, so be extra careful if you’re partial to these.  

The number of alcoholic drinks that are safe to consume according to the DGT. Source: DGT

What does the blood alcohol level depend on? 

Besides the number of drinks you have, as seen above, the type also greatly affects your blood alcohol level. For example, according to the DGT, the absorption of alcohol is slower in fermented drinks such as beer or wine than in distilled ones such as gin, rum or whiskey. Combing alcohol with fizzy mixers is also dangerous as it can speed up the absorption of alcohol.  

Age: Alcohol can affect younger people below the age of 18 and those above the age of 65 more, so they should drink even less or better still, none at all, if they are planning on driving. New drivers at whatever age are also at greater risk.  

Drinking with or without food: The DGT warns that drinking on an empty stomach is not a good idea and you should always eat something too.  

Time of day: The elimination of alcohol from your blood is much slower when you’re sleeping, so if you drink right before bed, it is possible that you could still fail a breathalyser test the next morning.

Personal circumstances: If you are tired, anxious, stressed or ill, it can also affect your blood alcohol level if you drink.  

What are the fines? 

If your alcohol level is between 0.25mg/l and 0.50mg/l you will be fined €500, plus have four points taken off your licence.

If it’s between 0.50mg/l and 60mg/l, you will be penalised by having to pay €1,000, plus have six points taken off your licence.

If you are found to be over 60mg/l, according to article 379 of the penal code, you could face between three and six months in prison, have to do one year of community service and have your licence taken away for a period of between one and four years.

Those who are repeat offenders and have been caught drink driving before will automatically be fined €1,000 and have either four or six points taken off their licence, depending on the level, providing it’s below 60mg/l.

If you refuse to take a breathalyser test, you could be sentenced to between six and 12 months in jail and have your licence taken away for between one and four years.

The DGT also warns that popular myths such as drinking coffee, consuming oil, doing exercise, chewing gum and smoking excessively will not help lower your alcohol level.