The new Road Traffic Act in Portugal came into force on 1 January 2014. They key changes are summarised below. Stay safe and avoid those fines!
• The use of the right-hand lane is only authorised for vehicles leaving the roundabout at the next exit.
• The right-hand lane is also designated for bicycles, tractors, animal-drawn vehicles and HGVs. These vehicles may use the right-hand lane freely; however, they must not prevent other vehicles from exiting the roundabout.
• The normal alcohol limit remains at 0.5g per litre of blood. However, the new limit for drivers who have held a licence for less than 3 years and for professional drivers (ambulance drivers, bus drivers, taxi drivers, HGV drivers and others) drops to 0.2g per litre of blood.
• Drivers who do not have a “Cartão do Cidadão” (the new Portuguese Identity Card) must carry their national tax card with them to present to the authorities if requested.
Transport of children
• Children who are at least 1.35m tall can travel in a vehicle in a normal seat (they do not require a special child seat).
Cyclists and Pedestrians
• Drivers of motor vehicles must pay close attention to pedestrians (especially children, elderly people, pregnant women, people with reduced mobility and people with disabilities) and cyclists. They must not put any of these “vulnerable” road users at risk and must take the necessary safety precautions while using the public highway.
• Cyclists under 10 years of age can ride on pavements, as long as they do not endanger or disturb pedestrians.
• Cyclists over 10 years of age cannot ride on pavements, but they can use the hard shoulder/roadside, as long as they do not endanger or disturb pedestrians.
• A “coexistence zone” is defined as a specially designated area for shared use by vehicles and pedestrians. Special traffic rules apply in these zones: parking is not allowed, and pedestrians can use the entire public highway as long as they do not cause difficulties for traffic. The speed limit in these areas is 20 km/h.
• Drivers of motor vehicles must give way to cyclists who are using designated crossings. Cyclists crossing the road in this way must first ensure they can cross without risk of accident.
• Motor vehicles must respect a minimum distance of 1.5m from bicycles when overtaking.
• Cyclists may ride in pairs, side by side, except in areas with reduced visibility.
• Town hall authorities may fine parked vehicles.
• Fines of over 200 Euros can be paid in instalments.