Polish driving Too many road deaths

Source: The Economist

THE headline stories on one of the Polish papers on June 13th made typical reading. Four people killed when their car ploughed into a shop near Poznan; five dead after their car rolled off the tarmac and into a ditch along a rural road in the northwest.

Nine dead and nine more to add to the grim statistics that surround Polish roads. Poland has some of the most dangerous roads in Europe, and each year they exact a fearful toll of dead and injured. In 2011 alone some 4,200 died on the road. This meant Poland had a road mortality rate of 110 deaths per million citizens, which was almost double the European average of 60, and pitiful when compared to Britain’s rate of 32.

The dangers of the roads provoke both anger and frustration in Poles. Anger because so many people are killed and injured, and frustration because the death rate remains so high and appears to defy the progress Poland has experienced in so many other fields over the past two decades.

It also appears to defy many of the road safety campaigns. Just before Poles take to the roads en masse for major national and religious holidays, warnings abound about the thousands of extra police drafted into traffic duty, and the grim consequences drivers can expect if convicted of dangerous or drunk driving. The police have even enlisted the support of priests in the hope that a roadside castigation from a member of the cloth will have more of an effect on errant drivers than a fine.

Yet still people die. The holiday surrounding All Souls’ Day, when Poles in their millions travel to graveyards to pay their respects to the departed, has developed its own macabre momentum with the carnage on the roads providing many sad reasons to visit a cemetery the following year. The accidents cost the Polish economy around $6.5 billion a year once all the bills have been added up.

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Categories: Europe, European Union, Poland

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