Monday, 19 april 2021 | Redacción CEU
When the image of a horde of zombies comes to our mind, we imagine a large and disoriented group of undead creatures that in an agonizing and disorientate way advance in search of human beings. Their actions are often careless but also highly malicious. The fear of zombies has been fueled for years by a whole catalog of audiovisual productions. It is not surprising that, although we have no reason whatsoever to believe that they exist, many people develop a very real and irrational fear towards these imaginary beings. But what if we had to fear a real and lesser known zombie hazard? In Spain, there are 2.65 million “zombie” cars. They are not living dead, but they are dangerous.
“Zombie” vehicles are cars, vans, trucks or motorcycles that continue to be driven despite not having compulsory insurance or that have been abandoned without reporting this decision to the Directorate General of Traffic (DGT, by its Spanish initials). It might seem that this is a minority practice, but the figures speak for themselves. According to the data collected by Línea Directa in its study "Zombie" vehicles: Uninsured cars in Spain. Problems and accidents (2010-2019), in Spain, there are 2.65 million zombie vehicles, this figure accounts for 7.7% of vehicles in the automobile fleet.
Why are there so many zombie cars in Spain?
In many cases, vehicle owners who stop using them mistakenly believe that they no longer need insurance policies. In fact, it happens more times than we might expect, according to the said Línea Directa study. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the ignorance of the rule is no excuse and, as a result, a car without insurance may carry heavy penalties, amounting to 3,000 euros depending on factors such as recurrence, damage, use and time without insurance. In turn, it might involve a penalty for not having passed the roadworthiness test on time and costs derived from the tow truck and the custody of the vehicle.
The insurance company points out that there is also some relaxation in the procedures that these vehicles’ owners must carry out. A considerable number of them does not renew their policies when they stop using their vehicles or does not notify the DGT to declare them as off the road when they dispose of them. It should be noted that even if a car is stationary in a private place and the owner does not intend to use it again, the Spanish legislation states that the vehicle must have insurance. The owner can also choose to declare their car sorn on a permanent or temporary basis.
There are also cases of vehicles that have been declared temporarily off-road, but they are still being driven. The Spanish Government has recently decided to reduce the period of temporary withdrawal of vehicles to just one year in order to avoid this misconduct. After this period, if a vehicle’s owner does not ask for an extension they must once again comply with the regular fiscal and administrative obligations.
Another important aspect that is related to the phenomenon of "zombie" cars is the aging of the Spanish car population, which accounts for an average of 12.3 years. Obviously, this factor is aggravated by the crisis scenario linked to the current pandemic. This unfavorable economic context, which is characterized by a series of periods of downturn, high unemployment and loss of purchasing power, has had an impact on the figures. In particular, the percentage of "zombie" cars increased by 16% last year.