201310.10
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The Road Traffic Code Amendments

September 3 saw the publication of Law 72/2013, which made amendments to and republished the Road Traffic Code.

The main amendments involve rules on the new areas of co-existence between pedestrians and drivers, roundabouts, new speed limits and road traffic offence proceedings, including infringements committed by officers of the police forces.

Co-existence area and the circulation of bicycles and tricycle

This amendment introduces the co-existence area, which is a public road area specially designed to be shared by pedestrians and vehicles. In these areas, special traffic rules will apply and they will be designated as such. Owing to the fact that this co-existence area will be a shared space, the speed limit will be 20 km/hour.

The laws for these co-existence areas must take into account the needs of the vulnerable users, which means defining a single platform where there are no physical barriers between the areas destined for the different kinds of travel.

In order to avoid accidents, the drivers of motor vehicles are obliged to keep a minimum side distance of 1.5 metres from a bicycle which is moving around on the same road.

Cycling is allowed on the hard shoulders, including for children under the age of 10, provided that they do not endanger or bother the pedestrians walking around there. Vehicles are only allowed on the hard shoulders or pavements if this is essential for access to the buildings (save the exceptions provided for in local regulations), otherwise the driver will have to pay a fine of between €60.00 and €300.00.

Pedestrians and cyclists will be permitted to use the entire breadth of the public road, and games may also be played there.

Drivers are obliged to stop whenever necessary so as not to compromise the safety or convenience of the other users of the public road, and any driver leaving a residential or co-existence area will always have to give way to other vehicles.

This amendment brings with it a new concept which is that of vulnerable users, in other words, pedestrians and cyclists, particularly children, the elderly, pregnant women, low-mobility or handicapped people, who may not do anything that will unnecessarily prevent or hamper the flow of vehicles, otherwise a fine of between €60.00 and €300.00 may be imposed on them.

Roundabouts

As from 1 January, when using the roundabouts, drivers must use the lane that is most convenient for their destination, in line with the instructions below:

Drivers moving on to the roundabout may only do so after giving way to vehicles that are already on the roundabout, regardless of which access road they come from.

If a driver intends to leave the roundabout at the first exit, he should drive around in the right lane; if he intends to leave at any of the other exits, then he must only move into the next lane to the right after passing the exit before the one he intends to take, gradually moving closer to this exit and changing lane after taking all the necessary precautions.

New speed limits

The new speed limits are as follows:


Built-up areas

Motorways

Dual carriageways

Other public roads

Co-existence areas

Other

areas

Under 50 cm3

20

40

60

Tricycles

20

50

100

90

80

Passenger and mixed vehicles
Without trailer

20

50

120

100

90

With trailer

20

50

100

80

70

Light goods vehicles
Without trailer

20

50

110

90

80

With trailer

20

50

90

80

70

Heavy passenger vehicles
Without trailer

20

50

100

90

80

With trailer

20

50

90

90

70

Heavy goods vehicles
Without trailer or semi-trailer

20

50

90

80

80

With trailer

20

40

80

70

70

Agricultural or forestry tractors

20

30

40

Agricultural machinery, two-wheel tractors and turf utility vehicles

20

20

20

Industrial machinery
Without licence plate

20

30

30

With licence plate

20

40

80

70

70


Road traffic offence proceedings

Under this amendment, any judicial challenge to a decision issued by the administrative body will have suspensory effect, whether it is a challenge to the imposition of a fine or additional penalty or the loss of one’s driving licence.

The general administrative offence regime will now apply to the review of definitive or final decisions on road traffic offence matters in conjunction with the Road Traffic Code.

No review of a definitive or final decision will be allowed in cases of minor road traffic offence cases or where two years have passed since the decision became final. Review against the defendant is allowed, but only when it is aimed at convicting him or her for the commission of a crime.

The rules on the means of identifying the infringer do not apply to officers of the various police forces when infringements are committed in the course of their duties, on a mission authorised by a superior or determined by law, when these are confirmed by a declaration of the relevant body.

When a fine or costs of a road traffic offence proceeding have not been paid, a certificate of debt will be issued on the basis of the details contained in the road traffic offence proceedings, which then serves as the basis for any enforcement proceedings in the courts, in accordance with the provisions on general administrative offence proceedings.

The above-mentioned legal instrument will be regulated by 2 December 2013 and will come into force on 1 January 2014.

Cláudia Roque de Almeida

ca@acfa.pt