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The L sign on cars in Spain 

PAGE 39 MOTOR

We have all seen cars being driven around, sometime erratically and sometimes very slowly with a Green L sign displayed in the back and may have thought quite innocently that the person driving is a learner driver.

Sadly this is not the case and this sign denotes a “new” driver i.e. one who has recently passed their test and who must therefore for a period of time adhere to various rules and regulations that do not apply to experienced drivers. This is quite the opposite to the procedure in the UK where drivers learning to drive have to display an L sign and take it off once they have successfully passed their test.

Officially this sign is known as a V13 sign and must be displayed by all new drivers for a minimum of a year, its purpose is to advise other road users of the fact that the driver has very little experience and perhaps it is wise for the experienced drivers to take more care and be more cautious around these vehicles. This sign must by law be displayed on the left hand rear side of the vehicle except in the case of motorcycles and disabled drivers and tricycles, where allowances are made but they must still be displayed on the rear of the vehicle concerned.

Previously new drivers displaying this sign had to adhere to slower speed limits but the law was changed in 2011 to permit them to travel at the same limits as experienced drivers but of course subject to any relevant speed limits that applied to the road on which they were travelling on.

There is one element however that is much more restrictive for new drivers and that is the limits of alcohol permitted to be consumed or be in their blood. In the UK the limit for novice or new drivers is 0,25 milligrams per litre but in Spain this is much lower at 0,15 milligrams per litre of exhaled air. Many insurance companies in Spain have a nil tolerance on alcohol for new or young drivers and often have restrictions on the hours that they are permitted to drive. This does not apply to all companies but there are several who have adopted either or both of these restrictions, one assumes for various reasons, to reduce their risk, to help avoid drink driving and to reduce accidents in dark situations.

Another difference is in the points system. Experienced drivers are given 12 points (rising to a maximum of 15, 1 per year clear of violations) and new drivers are limited to 8. In the UK points are added to your licence for traffic offences whereas in Spain the points are deducted from your total until you reach zero when you have to then sit (dependent on the violation and circumstances) a rehabilitation course in order to re-apply for your licence. This is normally only a theory course and only certain driving schools carry these types of courses out. Tráfico hold a list of Driving schools permitted to provide these courses and of course in most circumstances not only will you lose points and potentially your licence but you will incur a fine as well.

As we have already said the sign acts as a warning to experienced drivers to hopefully treat them with caution, patience and understanding in order for these drivers to gain experience. Drivers caught by the police without displaying the sign face a fine something that most would want to avoid. If a car is shared by a novice and an experienced driver then the L sign should be removed when being driven by an experienced driver.