Rules of the Road

So, yesterday, I was driving in town and as I approached a Stop sign two Trafico cars (Spanish traffic police, as you’ve probably guessed already) drove past me. Cue accelerated heart rate and butterflies in my stomach. (I’m the same walking through Customs. I blame my Irish Catholic upbringing – it’s made me so good at guilt that I don’t ever need to do anything wrong to permanently feel like I deserve arresting.)

Picture courtesy of Outisnn, Wikimedia Commons. Well, you didn't think I'd be brave enough to take a photo of a cop car, did you? I'd probably be arrested for it if I did...

However, having fallen foul of Trafico on a few occasions already I feel my anxiety in this instance is slightly less neurotic than usual. For example, at 9 and a half months pregnant (yes, really) Trafico stopped and fined us for not coming to a complete halt (the difference was barely discernible) at a Stop sign whilst making a left turn on an empty road (into the maternity hospital for God’s sake!)

Despite having the dream excuse at hand (or rather, at belly) unfortunately I wasn’t in the mood for hamming it up and faking an emergency labour. Being a heaving mess of hormones, I’m afraid all I could do was sit there and sob uncontrollably while the heartless b******* wrote my partner a ticket and fined us a hundred euros.

At this point my heart attitude soured rather towards the Guardia Civil in general and Trafico in particular. Strong words indeed coming from a convent-educated authority fearer like me. Hell hath no fury like a pregnant lady fined unfairly.

On another occasion they caught us in a speed trap and in addition to ticketing us for speeding they threatened to fine us for carrying a surf board in the car. The board was stowed in the boot, with one of the rear seats folded down to accommodate its length. The officer told us that it was illegal to carry anything that didn’t fit in the boot and that required folding the seat.

Which made me wonder: why do car manufacturers make folding rear seats? So you can store things in your car while it’s parked? Or maybe just for drivers in countries other than Spain? In which case they should just glue the seats in the upright position on all Spanish cars.

I happen to know that this can be done as I once had a car in the boot of which my then boyfriend accidentally spilt an enormous bucket of construction glue. That rear seat never folded again I can tell you. (Practicality was not Simon’s strong point. He also once sawed a sofa-bed in half to try and fit it up the stairs to our loft. Never quite the same again either.)

I digress. Back to yesterday. I end up following the two Trafico cars, casually checking my speed every 2 seconds or so. We are all approaching a pedestrian crossing where an elderly lady is leaning heavily on her walking stick waiting to cross.  And both cop cars sail over the crossing without so much as slowing their speed. I’m outraged, I tell you.

A pedestrian crossing - you're supposed to give way to pedestrians on these. No, really. Even if your job isn't specifically road safety. Photo: courtesy wikimedia commons

The difference between driver attitudes to pedestrian crossings here in Spain and those in the UK and Ireland has always struck me as immense. Here, crossings are all about brinkmanship. You must stride out onto the road decisively and with confidence in order for cars to stop. You don’t stand there watching and waiting for the cars to stop for you – if you do, you’ll be there a very long time. Still, you might have expected better from the pernickety, self-righteous upholders of the laws on road safety.

Maybe I’ll eventually get used to it, as with so many other cultural differences, but I think not. I really can’t believe that this device that was designed to assist people to cross roads safely was ever really intended to be used as what amounts to a giant game of chicken.


  1. Stopped by to say thank you for subscribing and saw this post which really hit a nerve with me. The Italian catholic upbringing in my case always makes me feel nervous when I see the Policia or Guardia Civil, but I have also had fines for ridiculous things (like the day they changed a speed limit from 60 to 40km and stopped loads of us with 300 euro fines)! Anyway, will have a proper look round your site this week (just back from a weekend away in Cordoba) and hope you continue to enjoy mine. ¡Hasta luego!

    • They can be pretty intimidating, right? And somewhat sly in their methods of getting maximum multas! Anyway, really lovely to hear from you. I just discovered your site today and I love it. I’m looking forward to working my way through your recipes! One of my aims on here this year is to start posting some of the recipes that I have been collecting here in Spain myself. ¡Hasta luego!

  2. Interesting stuff – not so much that the police are messing with you but rather your reaction and the whole walking thing. I’d have panicked in the same way. Catholics stick together!

    I actually featured this in my “best of Jan” content here:

    Come on over, take a look and say hi. Also if you could help to share that would be great!


  1. […] to ticket us and that Richie could count it as a belated birthday present! (Believe me, this would NEVER happen in Spain.) He must have felt sorry for the tourist idiots in their ditsy, impractical PT Cruiser, laden down […]

  2. […] to ticket us and that Richie could count it as a belated birthday present! (Believe me, this would NEVER happen in Spain.) He must have felt sorry for the tourist idiots in their ditsy, impractical PT Cruiser, laden down […]

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