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Driving in Poland

The 'large Polish Fiat' - one of only a handful of car models seen on Polish roads before 1990

A surviving example of the once popular larger 'Polish Fiat' model and driver making their way along a very minor road in the Polish countryside. 

Poland is without a doubt one of the worst places for car drivers in Europe. The country has some of the worst roads; the highest numbers of cars stolen; and large numbers of drivers who do not meet accepted Western European norms in terms of driving skills. 

Poland's roads are in general of a very poor quality, and are badly designed and maintained. Roads are often full of deep potholes or track-like ruts, where the wheels of heavy trucks have passed along time and time again. Some minor roads have not been improved since they were first built decades before. Crossroads and road junctions are often not marked with stop lines, and the white road markings on the road where they do exist are almost invisible. New road building, largely financed by the European Union, is on the whole badly designed and planned and the finish is of a poor standard. For example: many new roundabouts are actually not round, but are designed so that drivers need not slow down, as they approach them. Because of this many drivers drive right across at high speed without even slowing down! Cars going around these squared 'roundabouts' having to brake or crash into the cars not slowing down.

Over 50,000 cars are reported as stolen or car-jacked / hijacked in Poland every year. The most popular targets for car thieves are German models like BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Audi; and Volvo station wagons. Cars with number plates from outside of Poland appear to be particular targets. Criminals have been known to simulate a car crash or flat tyre or pose as police officers in order to get the car to stop and then steal it. Cars with German plates, in particular, might also receive additional attention from vandals or thieves impressed by the car's radio. For these reasons car rental companies from places like Germany will usually not permit their hire cars to enter Poland. Our advice would be that if you plan a visit to Poland and have a car with foreign registation plates, think twice before driving it into Poland! 

A large number of Polish drivers drive in a way which would be totally unacceptable outside of Poland. Many of these habits are extremely dangerous and account for many thousands of deaths each year on Polish roads. These rather primitive driving habits include but are not limited to: overtaking in the face of oncoming traffic, and then expecting the oncoming car and the car being overtaken to flee into the emergency lane; overtaking on blind bends; aggresive tailgating; overtaking on the inside on dual carriageway roads; exceeding the speed limit in the most dangerous locations; and an almost total disregard for traffic signals. For a number of Polish drivers a red light means stop only if another vehicle will or is obstructing your path or if you are likely to be seen by a policeman. Jumping lights, which have just changed to red, is commonplace. Cars generally only stop at zebra crossings if there are pedestrians in the middle of the road. 

Driving Tip: some of the least refined drivers can be seen sporting closely cropped hair, wearing black leather jackets, and driving BMW, Audi and Mercedes cars! Related Link: Roadside Crosses

Quick Driving in Poland Facts and Figures:

Speed limits in Poland are measured in KPH (Kilometres per Hour).

Built-up areas 50kph/31mph
Outside built-up areas 90kph/56mph
Expressways 110kph/68mph

All vehicles must use headlights both night and day.

Traffic Fines:

Police are empowered to collect fines on the spot; they must issue a receipt.


Comments on Driving in Poland:

Add your own comment and opinion about Polish drivers and driving in Poland to this page.

Name: Issie

Location: Preston, Lancashire

Message: Everything you have said is true:-(  I drove 1200KM in Poland last year - and never thought I would come out alive! My poor family - came with me - what was I thinking of? We - had a very good friend - a Pole living here driving an English car in Poland - we followed him all the time - but he and I were scared s**tl*ss Roads appalling, police appalling - long story - but 12 months on - phew am so glad I ain't doing it again!!


Name: Nigel

Location: Milton Keynes

Message: The verdict on Polish roads and drivers is spot on but if you dont have any manners or sense it doesn't matter how good the road is! I lived there for 11 years, I drove a truck through all of eastern europe,and I consider their road manners to be near the worst I've seen. There are some good drivers too, but the general situation is one of a complete and total disregard for everyone and everything around them. I quote the poor residents of Sochaczew as the finest example. They were completely terrorized by bad drivers and trucks until they hasd to protest by blocking the roads and eventually got a diversion. I salute you the people of Sochaczew, I am a trucker who felt very sorry for you - we were not all the same. I feel it strange that Britain and Ireland have chosen Poland as the source of its new professional, well mannered HGV drivers - they dont have many and we have enough pr*cks of our own to sort out already. Money talks I suppose.

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