Madrid.—Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said yesterday that he was “open to discussion” over increasing the speed limit, currently at 120 kph on motorways and dual carriageways. He warned however, that a decision would depend on studies on what impact such a move would have on the environment.

Speaking during his attendance at a government Highway Safety Committee, Fernandez Diaz was responding to a call from a Catalan Unionist (CiU) spokesman who in fact urged Congress to consider the possibility of putting up the limit. The Minister claimed that a modest increase in the speed limit on motorways and dual carriageways would not jeopardize vehicle user safety because 75 percent of fatal accidents take place on conventional main roads.

Fernandez Diaz said that a sticking point in discussions over the increase was more likely to focus on the carbon emission issue. “Spain has to pay money for the extent of the country's CO2 emission levels,” he explained.

The Minister said that it is also now necessary to look at ways of making it easier for people to buy new cars as there is currently what he described as “too much bureaucracy” surrounding vehicle purchase. He said that people are extending the life of their present cars to levels which “may jeopardize road safety” and that a change of generation of cars would contribute to lowering the accident rate.

Cars on Spain's roads are some of the oldest in Europe. Around 44 percent of vehicles in use are more than 10 years old. According to estimates from the car manufacturers' federation “Anfac”, if new car purchases remain at their present low level, this percentage will rise to 50 percent by the year 2014.

On the subject of driving whilst under the influence of drugs and alcohol, the Minister insisted that a system is being introduced through the Guardia Civil Traffic department which will enable officers to test if drugs have affected drivers' capacity at the wheel, very much along the same lines as breath test controls currently in use. “The government has zero tolerance towards use of drugs by drivers,” he said.


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