People moving to Portugal are being caught out by new strict driving rules introduced at the beginning of this year.
There have been more than 60 amendments to the country’s Road Traffic Act since last summer which include a lower alcohol limit for inexperienced drivers and changes to the use of lanes at roundabouts.
All drivers in Portugal who have held their driving license for less than three years are now limited to 0.2 grams of alcohol per litre of blood. The limit for drivers who have held their license for longer than three years remains at 0.5 grams. Both are lower than in many other countries. For example, in the UK the limit is 0.8 grams.
If a driver is involved in an accident they will now be tested for drug use in addition to alcohol, and the procedure for the breathalyser test has changed slightly. If an individual tests positive for drugs or alcohol, they must be immediately informed of the results in writing and of any sanctions that apply. Police must also inform the driver of his/her right to demand a counter test as the results of the second test prevail over the first. If the driver tests positive again, they will be responsible for the cost of the second test.
Drivers are also being advised that they should have their passport as well as their licence when they are driving. If stopped, they will be required to show both documents along with insurance. Failure to do so can result in a fine of between €60 and €300.
At roundabouts the law now states that only road users taking the first exit can use the right hand lane, while everyone else must use the inner lane. The fine for failing to do so is up to €300.
Under the changes, drivers must give a berth of at least 1.5 meters when passing a cyclist and reduce their speed while doing so. Now cyclists have an equal footing with cars at roundabouts and cycling on pavement is illegal unless it’s a child under 10 years old.
The police are required to inform all drivers subjected to a fine of more than €200 that they can pay the fine in instalments of €50 or more over a period not exceeding 12 months.
‘Not everyone arriving in the country is aware of the new laws. We urge everyone to do their homework and check on the new regulations. We have leaflets available in several languages,’ said a Department of Transport spokesman.