Over 15 million old cars on the road affect road safety in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
old cars

There are more than 15 million cars over ten years old on Spanish roads. Spain has an average age of the car fleet in Spain of 13.49 years. Therefore, this is higher than the average within the European Union (11.5 years).  

In recent years, this age has gradually increased, with all the dangers this entails for road safety. Such an old vehicle fleet leads to higher accident rates, more serious injuries, more pollution and less vehicle maintenance. 

By age, the fleet of vehicles totalling 24,716,898 in Spain is as follows: 

  • Up to 4 years old 5,761,488 
  • From 5 to 9 years old: 3,703,895 
  • From 10 to 14 years old: 5,466,150 
  • From 15 to 19 years old: 5,072,196 
  • 20 years and older: 4,713,196 

In 2021, nearly 1.3 million passenger cars over 10 years old were sold. This figure is much higher than the more than 800,000 units of new passenger cars registered last year. Furthermore, it pushes the market toward older, more polluting vehicles. This is not only a result of the pandemic, but also the impoverishment of Spanish families due to the war in Ukraine and the rise in gas prices. 

The older the vehicle, the greater the risk of an accident 

‘Such an old vehicle fleet undoubtedly leads to more accidents, more serious injuries, more pollution and less maintenance of the vehicles,’ explains Nuria Alonso, spokeswoman for the Royal Automobile Club RACE. She continues: ‘The aging of the vehicle fleet is at the root of many road accidents that occur in Spain. Many of these older cars are not properly maintained and do not have the best safety systems. In addition, the older the vehicle, the fewer safety systems it has, for example;

  • lighting systems that provide reduced visibility
  • no head restraints
  • two-point safety belts instead of three
  • no tire pressure warning system
  • many vehicles do not have ABS

Furthermore, it is precisely these safety systems that prevent fatal accidents. 

According to DGT data, the risk of death or injury with hospitalization is 1.6 times higher in cars 10 to 14 years old than in cars up to 4 years old. This increases exponentially as the car ages. The risk of death is even 2.2 times higher for cars 15 to 19 years old. According to the RACE, accident statistics show that there has been a 78% increase in the number of traffic fatalities who travelled in a car more than 15 years old.  

Maintenance also important 

The lack of maintenance of these cars could also have prevented many deaths. According to the study by the Road Safety Institute of Madrid’s Carlos III University, ITV stations (the Spanish MOT) prevented 530 deaths, nearly 12,000 injuries of varying severity and at least 17,000 road accidents in a year. According to the same study, if 20% of vehicles not subject to mandatory inspections had done so, at least 8,000 accidents, nearly 7,000 injuries and 160 additional deaths could have been avoided. Some drivers call in roadside assistance when their car breaks down before they have taken the precaution of having it serviced. According to RACE, breakdown service records have increased. ‘Drivers are required to pass the MOT and sometimes they don’t pass it. We have seen that maintenance has decreased,’ Alonso explained. Arturo Miguel Rojo, head of RACE’s technical platform, confirms this.  

More pollution  

Currently in Spain, there are 10 million vehicles on the road without a label, another 10 million with a B label and four million with a C label. These vehicles are the most polluting. Vehicles with a B label make up 64% of the fleet and are responsible for 92% of particulate emissions.  

nederlandse orthopeed

‘We have a fleet that is too old. Moreover, there are communities that are increasing the average age of the fleet. In Ceuta, Melilla and Castilla León, the average age is 15 years, compared to Madrid or Barcelona, which average 12.4 years.  

‘When it comes to scrapping a car, it is cheaper for the motorist to sell it, to a motorist in Malaga, for example, where there are no mobility restrictions, than to scrap it, then the car continues to circulate, even if it is in another community with all that that entails, more risk, and more pollution, it is a fish biting its own tail,’ says Alonso.  

More support and lower taxes 

What must be clear, says Alonso, is that if someone does not buy a new car, it is not because they do not want to, but because they cannot. Therefore, it is necessary to provide assistance. It is worrying that there is no series of support measures, not only of an economic nature, but also to make the motorist aware of how to buy new vehicles, because they are still too expensive, the subsidies that are coming are coming too late and also in a way that is not expected, if we think that at the moment there is not enough support to achieve a rehabilitation of the fleet.  

Taxes high in Spain 

On top of that, along with Greece, we are the two countries in the European Union with the highest taxes in Europe, so while other countries like Germany or France are eliminating taxes, here we see that they are being levied twice and when the motorist wants to buy a new car, he can’t. ‘This has to change,’ Alonso says. 

Another factor to take into account is the charging points, companies encounter many obstacles and lack of support to install them and this makes any purchase of electric vehicles more expensive and slows them down. 

Lastly, the lack of materials to manufacture vehicles is also a reason why this used market continues to gain momentum and motorists who are going to buy a car and get it in a year’s time prefer to refurbish their car that is more than 10 years old or buy another one that is also old. 

Also read: Nearly 9 million vehicles being driven in Spain without valid ITV

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