As I wrote this time last year, the slaughter on Polish roads is abating, but it's happening at all too slow a pace.
From 7,900 killed in 1991 (when the number of cars in Poland was around three times lower than it is today) the number of victims has more than halved, but this still remains a catastrophe of national proportions. There are three thousand people alive in Poland today who - if past years' stats are anything to go by - will not make it through to the end of the year because they will have been involved in a fatal road accident
Tuesday's massacre at Kamień Pomorski in which a drunken 26 year-old driving a BMW crashed into a group of pedestrians killing six people has forced some much-needed introspection and soul-searching among Poles. The main message from the media to the nation after this event has been that there should be an end to przyzwolenie (somewhere between 'tacit consent' and 'acquiescence') for driving under the influence. The female passenger of the BMW will always have on her conscience the fact that she could have done more to stop the driver from sitting behind the steering wheel in his condition (ten times over the Polish drink-drive limit).
But while alcohol is certainly a major contributing factor when it comes to fatal road accidents in Poland, a greater one - which no pundit mentioned - was speed. The contrast between driving around the UK (which I had been for much of the previous week) and Poland is glaring. In Britain, drivers generally respect speed limits and drive more sensibly. I noted only one case of idiotic driving in over 420 miles (675 km) - a guy in a Saab convertible tailgating then dodging and weaving across all three lanes of the M62 near Manchester - something I see daily on ul. Puławska.
Poles - drivers, passengers, pedestrians alike should start treating drivers that flout speed limits as potential killers and not as romantic heirs to the Polish lancers at Somosierra. Impatience is as much a killer as impaired judgment due to alcohol - and even more common. I'd also like to see social opprobrium fall upon those drivers who think it OK to send SMSs while maneuvering their cars in traffic. Just before Christmas I saw a driver of a white Opel Astra texting as he turned right off Marszałkowska into Żurawia - looking at the screen of his mobile rather than at the stream of pedestrians crossing Żurawia.
Let's be thankful that the overall trend continues to be in the right direction, but there's a long way to go before Poland's roads are as safe as those in the UK. Though we don't have figures for 2013, the year before last in the UK saw the lowest number of road accident fatalities since records began back in 1926 - and that is despite a 10% year-on-year rise in the number of cyclists. But even so, 1,754 people died on the roads of Britain in 2012. The number should be zero.
Below: a classic case. You will see Izabella Ch. driving her black Mercedes CLS northbound across Al. Jerozolimskie, running a red light, hitting a white car then crashing into the entrance of Centrum Metro station. This happened at 02:30 on Wednesday 18 December. The 31 year-old woman was five times over the drink-drive limit and has had previous run-ins with the police when drunk in charge of a car. I would sincerely hope that after due process of law, this woman is never allowed back behind the driving wheel. Ever.
Below: the consequences of running a red light - one of dozens of aftermaths of car smashes I've witnessed over my years in Poland.
From the website of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, some official advice from the British government:
Driving on Polish roads can be hazardous. Local driving standards are poor: speed limits, traffic lights and road signs are often ignored and drivers rarely indicate before manoeuvring.
In 2012 there were 3,571 road deaths in Poland (source: DfT). This equates to 9.3 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2012.WSTYD!!! Polish drivers are three point three times more lethal than British ones. Enough already. Trzeba się opanować za kierownicą!
If Poland's roads are to be blanketed with speed cameras - so be it. They save lives.
This time last year:
Light show at the Presidential Palace
This time four years ago:
About juice - and empty supermarket shelves
This time five years ago:
That's what I call Winter Vol. 12
This time six years ago:
When the days start getting a little longer...