Car owners in Spain are required to have the following four things in place before they can take their vehicle out on the road: paid-up car tax, valid insurance, the ITV vehicle inspection certificate and, last but not least, a complete disregard for their own personal safety.
This was proven again this weekend, at an official level, when we took our car to sort out item 3 on the list, the ITV.
The ITV, or Inspección Técnica de Vehículos, is the equivalent of the British MOT. A new car has to take this test after 4 years on the road, then every 2 years for a while, then finally every year.
The test is administered at huge warehouses on the dusty outskirts of cities all over Spain, and involves checking exhaust emissions, suspension, brakes, indicators, seatbelts, and other small items required for general road safety like whether or not your headlights work.
Ours didn’t. At the very second the guy told me to turn on my headlights for this seemingly important part of the test, a warning light popped up on my dashboard telling me that the front left headlamp had failed. Oh No!
This blatantly meant we were going to fail the ITV, would have to drive back to Madrid, get it fixed, and come all the way back out to kilometer 20.4 of the A6 motorway to take the test again several days later.
As we queued up to get out ‘Fail’ certificate the injustice of this terrible piece of bad timing weighed heavily: why couldn’t the damn light have blown just 2 minutes later? I approached the desk and was informed by a nice young lady, ‘Here we are, no problems, 2 more years.’ The car passed the test!
Marina and I scanned the piece of paper to see how on earth this was possible. At the bottom there were two colomuns: Infracciones Graves (Serious, Your-Car-Is-Off-The-Road Problems) and Infracciones Leves (Little Fluffy Don’t-Worry-About-It Problems). Under the Small Problems column, where things that are not important enough to fail you and keep your car off the road go, we read ‘broken headlamp bulb’.
So next time you drive along a narrow Spanish country lane in the dark, and a nearly-impossible-to-see car with only one functional headlamp comes tearing round a blind corner nearly forcing you off the road in shock, don’t worry! Relax! It’s just an Infracción Leve, not in any way to be confused with something that might actually make the already scary roads of Spain any less of a secure environment for you and your family!
Spanish car-madness stories/experiences welcome in the comments below.