Saturday, 30 August 2014

Changes to Polish road traffic law as of tomorrow

More people died on Poland's roads last year than have so far died in the fighting in Eastern Ukraine. More than three times as many Poles die on Poland's roads per million citizens (87) than Brits (29) or Swedes (28). A nation is trying to wipe itself out using the motorcar. Within the EU, only Romania (92) is doing so more efficiently than Poland.

As I wrote earlier this year, things are getting better, but one way or another, 65 human lives are lost needlessly on Poland's roads each week. Nine human beings, who were alive yesterday morning, were killed on Poland's roads by the end of the day.

Below: a giant road-safety poster, five storeys high, on the side of a building on ul. Waryńskiego. The campaign, sponsored by insurer PZU, is a message to curtail social acceptance of reckless driving. "If you love (someone), say STOP to road lunatics/ madmen/ idiots/ fools/ nutters".

Speed is the main killer. This is an unpalatable fact to many, proud of their shiny new motor-cars with their powerful engines. Yet human life is far more precious than the right to charge along public highways regardless of speed limits.

More speed cameras please!

The UK experience is that the proportion of fatal road accidents in which excessive speed was the main factor has fallen from 32% to 20% over the past decade. In Poland, however, in 42% of fatal accidents, excessive speed was the main factor. Half as many again. In the UK, speed cameras have played a significant part in changing the mentality of drivers; blasting along the highways at illegal speeds is no longer socially acceptable.

The other main killer of course is alcohol, in particular in rural Poland. Just yesterday, 280 drivers were caught drink-driving. Just think how many others reached their destinations without being stopped. A hundred times more than that? 30,000 - 50,000 journeys made yesterday under the influence of alcohol?

From tomorrow, another one of Poland's trio of major contributory factors to industrial-scale road slaughter will be addressed. Pedestrians moving about rural roads in the dark. It's happened to every driver in Poland. You are driving sensibly, soberly, with total regard for speed limit. You are driving along an unlit stretch of road in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly you realise you've just missed hitting a pedestrian or cyclist by inches. Cyclists already have a duty to have their bicycles lit at night - a white light in front, a red one in the rear, augmented by a red reflector.

Yet from tomorrow, pedestrians using public roads after dark, outside of built-up areas, will have to wear some item of reflective material about their clothing, be it a badge, arm-band or sticker.

From the government's website (
The revised rule requires all pedestrians (regardless of age) to use reflective elements when they walk along roads after dusk other than in built-up areas. This does not apply only in cases where the pedestrian is walking along a pavement... Pedestrians not wearing reflective elements may get fined from 20 zlotys up to 500 złotys.
Ironically, inhabitants of Jeziorki can happily stroll up and down ul. Karczunkowska without any reflective element, wearing pitch-black jackets, darkest trousers and hats, without fear of incurring such a penalty. Because our pavement-free road lies within a built-up area.

Let's hope the new rules, which do infringe one's liberty, are followed. And finally - motorists - please stick to the speed limit.

This time three years ago:
Teasers in the Polish-English linguistic space

This time four years ago:
Summer slipping away

This time five years ago:
To the airport by bike

This time six years ago:
My translation of Tuwim's Lokomotywa