New Driving Laws in Portugal

From the Algarve Daily News:

RoundaboutMore than 60 amendments to Portugal’s Road Traffic Act came into force on New Year’s Day, including the lowering of the alcohol limit for professional drivers and drivers who recently have passed their test, new rules for cyclists and new rules for the nation’s multitude of beautifully constructed roundabouts.

The Highway Code now provides for the creation of ‘residential areas of coexistence,’ ie where man and machine operate in perfect harmony with specific rules for traffic such as speed limits reduced to a gentle 20kmph.

There is an important paperwork change – Portuguese identification cards now are needed if the driver does not have the new citizen card. It is hoped that foreign drivers will be OK with a passport as non-Portuguese citizens are neither entitled to an ID card nor a citizen’s card. Many expats do not have fiscal cards but should carry the paper document, free from Finanças, with their fiscal number on it.

The law that fiscal numbers must be produced when asked is to enable authorities to check if a driver is in debt with the taxman. Failure to present the card will result in a fine of €30. Whether this is to be challenged by the over-burdened Constitutional Court or not remains to be seen but the increase in spying into citizens’ financial affairs by the traffic police will do nothing to improve the pact between state and citizen.

There is an important change at roundabouts. The only road users that can use the right-hand lane at a roundabout are those that are taking the first exit. Everyone else must use the inner lane i.e. if going straight ahead or turning left. The fine if you get this new maneuver wrong is between €60 and €300 and over the next few weeks the GNR are likely to be perched at their favourite roundabouts, waiting….

Annoyingly, different sources of information have different interpretations of this new rule with some suggesting that the right hand lane is for both the first and second exits. More clarification will be needed so in the meantime stick to the IMTT’s interpretation, right hand lane – first right only.

The new code reduces the alcohol level permitted to 0.2 grammes per litre of blood for drivers on probation i.e. those that have held a full license for less than 3 years, and for drivers of rescue service vehicles, taxi drivers and commercial drivers of vans and trucks.

In the event of an accident, in addition to the mandatory test for alcohol blood level, there now will be screening for drug use using rather accurate test kits.

Cyclists gain new rights with new rules giving them equal rights to vehicles in many cases.

The police are required to inform any driver fined more than €200 that he or she can pay the fine in installments of €50 or more, over a period not exceeding 12 months.

Mobile phone and i-Pod headphones with two earpieces are banned but those with a single earpiece are still allowable. No, you can’t say you were only using one of the earpieces as double earpieces are banned totally.

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