Dear Mr Tusk – on the question of cutting expenditure.

14th July, Warszawa

Dear Mr Tusk,

Some of my friends were telling me that your country can’t afford to build new roads (Euro 2012 & all that) because your country is poor. Nobody ever helps you and the money coming from the EU is not enough. Apparently. So, I got to thinking about some great ideas on how you could cut expenditure in other areas and then divert it to projects that will really help. My first idea is about traffic lights.

I couldn’t help noticing that your country has some traffic lights. Admittedly not in the countryside (I’m told cows are colour blind, is that true?), but in all the cities and towns you can find these strange devices with three different coloured lights on them – red, amber (pomaranczowy) and green. I have placed a picture at the top of this letter because as you normally whoosh through town in your big black BMW surrounded by 24 security cars with lights flashing you might be forgiven for not noticing them or realising that normal people are supposed to pay attention to them.

I come from a country with a 140 year history of traffic management. The world’s first traffic signals were installed close to the houses of parliament in London in 1868. These were based on railway signals but even the red/green electric signals have been around for 80 years or more, thanks to your potential missile partners. It has to be said then, that these are not a new-fangled idea designed to confuse ordinary folk. They are the world’s best, tried and tested method of regulating traffic.

The idea is very simple. Red means stop, green means go and amber means get ready to do one or the other. I see Poland has adopted the four-state system that includes an amber light both ways, i.e. before the green and before the red. This might have been a good idea at the time but the thrust of this letter is that I don’t really think it’s working and this might give rise to a cost saving opportunity.

I’ve been here for a while now and, irrespective of whatever your traffic advisers are telling you, I can state categorically that the amber light is a complete waste of money! When being used to advise people to prepare to stop it is totally redundant. Nobody wants to stop. The light was green and it is a source of some anguish to think that they have to stop just so some other idiots can get where they are going faster! No no. It is the red light that means ‘get ready to stop’, not the amber. You only need to look at the number of accidents that happen at light controlled junctions to realise that stopping at a red light is more a question of whether the driver feels so inclined, than an imperative action.

Now, looking at the amber meaning “get ready to go”. I’m pretty sure that someone was engaged in a giant leg-pulling exercise here, or perhaps the four-state system was decided on an April 1st? Either way, people are treating it as the joke it is and don’t even start thinking about going until they see green. That means the traffic actually gets going about 20 seconds after the green light appears (what seems like 5 minutes after the amber light appeared) which all means that roughly 25% of the traffic that should have moved on, actually did. I’m not certain what is causing this delay. It could be that people are well aware of their own habits as regards red lights and therefore want a safety margin after the other traffic is supposed to have stopped. On the other hand, it could just be the old chestnut of “who’s got the right?”. If I move off on an amber light, would it be my fault if something happens? As I’m rather confused about this aspect of the law, I shall ignore the amber light and wait until I see a green light before engaging brain to be followed some time later by legs and arms. Everyone knows that green means go, that much is clear. I have a feeling that the UK is a three-state system with the light going directly from red to green without an amber. It is perhaps this that has made me over sensitive, according to the Polish value system, to the need to get moving immediately the red light is extinguished.

The conclusion therefore, Mr Tusk, is that the amber light should be done away with. The snail-like state of traffic-flow thanks to accidents caused by red-light jumpers and delays caused by green light procrastinators is not helped by this amber light in any way. Just install a two light system – red & green – people will stop at some point when the red light is on and will go eventually sometime after the green light appears. Everyone will be happy and you will save 33.3% on all future road traffic systems.

You might go even further by saving on electricity costs and switching all the lights off at the weekends. Nobody on the road at the weekend knows how to drive anyway, so having the lights off completely, especially in the summer months, is just plain common sense!

Yours truly,


38 thoughts on “Dear Mr Tusk – on the question of cutting expenditure.

  1. In Poland – red means stop, green means go and orange means go like hell – that’s half the problem. The other half is that the drivers here are the most rude in the world. Seems that the concept of ‘polite’ merging is not in the psyche or vocabulary.

    Finally, the concept of left turn arrows…….. or passing across a double line or the road shoulder

    Good post

  2. Polish drivers are rude ,because the large streets in post communist cities make them rude. Just go to Moscow and look how they drive there.

    All we need are small cute, one way streets like in London, Rome or in Barcelona…

  3. Good idea – lets cut them all down to one ways and slice 2 lanes off the sparse number of 3 laners. Moscow is as you say worst, go to Tbilisi where they are one way and cute and it makes Moscow and Warsaw look like Cambridge

  4. Never mind the moving off time lag with the amber light – they’re bad enough without the amber. And then once they’re off they all bloody travel at the same speed across all three lanes. It drives me round the bend!!

    And talking about bends could someone please do an article on these road signs i.e. junctions with a broken priority and how one should indicate? I would do it myself but am not a blogger so can’t.
    Carry on….

  5. Hilarious!

    Some possible reasons for drivers not preparing to go when they see amber (isn’t it orange?):

    1. They get easily bored with staring at the lights, so they stop looking that way.
    2. They stop their cars too close to the car before them, so they can’t start moving before the first driver moves away.
    3. They wait for the drivers coming from their right to react to the red there.

  6. Ad, yes indeed. My favourite, although there are a few in Warsaw, is the one where Stawki turns left into Smocza instead of going straight on to Okopowa. At the same junction you also have a Shell petrol station and there are no markings left on the road surface. Everyone is indicating, nobody is moving. Complete paralysis!

  7. scatts – good catch. I bet that there are road department employees who drive that route every day and ‘don’t see’ the problem – there is a problem with what I call ‘myopic creep’ in Poland. The eye sees but the image and meaning never make it through the maze of synapses to the appropriate portion of the brain.

  8. What utter, rant-inducing twaddle.

    Polish drivers are crap, they drive crap cars on crap roads. Which is why in a country with half the number of cars in the UK, they end up causing twice the number of road deaths.





    Rant over, Player One.

  9. Hang on! I’ve only just started!





    Cameras. That’s the only language they understand. Bring them on. Saturate Poland’s streets and highways with them. BRING THEM ON!

    Rant really over. I hope.

  10. …and breathe

    Seriously, I’m beginning to wonder if we shouldn’t start an offshoot blog entitled “Polish Road Rage” or something.

    I just came back from a holiday that included time in France, Spain, and the UK and almost got myself killed within 10 minutes of being back in Krakow – I forgot that stopping for pedestrians at pedestrian crossings is an unheard of concept here. After dragging myself back to the curb with multiple lacerations I stood for a good three or four minutes with about 17 other people who clearly wanted to cross the road as dozens and dozens of cars streamed past us, their drivers more intent on picking their noses than on noticing the plight of lowly pedestrians.

    Will somebody please explain this to me. I am at a complete loss.

    Next ranter please.

  11. The good thing is that most of the stupid drivers kill themselves sooner or later.

    It is a natural selection process. Especially during the summer many of them end in a tree. And Poland has a lot of trees…

  12. Island: “Will somebody please explain this to me. I am at a complete loss.”

    Some years ago the rules were changed. Before that drivers had to stop when they saw pedestrians standing on a pavement in front of a pedestrian crossing, now they have to stop only when pedestrians enter the crossing (their feet must be on the zebra). Clearly few pedestrians know the rule and so they stand on the pavement instead of walking.

    If you think we are idiots for making the rule as it is now then obviously you have never observed the babcie that can stand in front of a crossing for half an hour and chat merrily instead of crossing the road as they apparently meant to before they had met then and there and forgot their initial intention, and the line of cars waiting for them to cross the damn street for the remainder of their encounter. If it happened on an isle dividing two lanes then there were two lines of cars, or six – depending on a road.

  13. Michael – is right as are may others. In Poland the zebra crossing should be renamed to the ‘killing field’ – I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people whizzing through then trying to zoom past people who are trying to walk through. Like driving at full throttle through a maze.

    Cameras – right, more will be better. I just read that the rocket scientists in the government have decided that they will stop giving ‘points’ and will have higher fines – duh, if it is such a problem – do both – raise the fines to Western European levels (like Sweden) and give points – bankrupt the speeders and take their right to drive away.

    Anybody want to discuss drunk driving?

  14. “Next ranter please”?

    Pedestrians. That’s the only form of life (except for stray dogs or other non-human pest) to approach zebra crossings. Cross them off. Both the crossings and the bipeds. Saturate Poland’s streets with cars and cars and more vehicles. Bikes excluded (having pathetic — let’s quote the angry screamer — “MIRROR-SIGNAL-MANOEUVRE” — facilities).

    Everybody in Poland deserves their car. Ot two. BRING THEM ON! Big gas-gallons-gobbling monstos. Poland should follow the New Chinese Way. Or, for the biased ones, the Old American Way. More steam, more steel, more power to my stick. By the (high)way, clear rospuda valleys and other green supersititons for more driving pleasure.

    Allegedly better road-awareness / -politness in the so-called civilised West is a myth. Westerners are boors, wiseacre long and arsehole wide. *Just like* anyone else could be. If Westerners should act differently, it’d only be attributable to the possibility that they underwent some Pavlov-dog-like training, years or decades earlier. Now they’re taught to salivate properly upon demand and wag their tails nicely. Now they do envy Polish broncos that are not fully tamed yet.


    PS More cameras, definitely. Poles have ID’s (and Britons don’t) and Poles don’t have Tube (and Britons do) — so they’re kinda even. Let’s have CCTV and more surveillance. And no dustbins. Removed dustbins are essential to a good sense of civilisational superiority.

  15. Sylwia – crap. Have you seen a dead woman (53, the papers said) killed by a wanker in a speeding Daewoo Espero as she crossed Puławska in Pyry? Two lanes of traffic stopped for her – this wanker just piled on through in the ‘slow’ lane not thinking, not considering why two lanes of traffic had stopped. I saw this woman dying. The driver should lose his right to drive a car FOR EVER.

    Where are the Zig-zag markers approaching zebra crossings? Where are the Belisha beacons? Where are yellow box junctions?

  16. Incidentally, before moving to Poland, I’ve considered myself lucky in never having seen a dead human being. Since moving here, I’ve seen five, all mown down on Polish roads by Polish drivers. Two on the Warsaw-Lublin road, two on the Warsaw-Poznan road, the one mentioned above around the corner from our house.

    Why this senseless slaughter? If 5,000 people were to die because of a mysterious infection, wouldn’t we worry? Or killed in terrorist attacks? Or as the result of natural catastrophe?

    But we keep on slaughtering ourselves – because of our own stupidity, obstinacy, selfishness, impatience and thoughtlessness.

  17. “Incidentally, before moving to Poland, I’ve considered myself lucky in never having seen a dead human being. Since moving here, I’ve seen five, all mown down on Polish roads by Polish drivers.”

    Me too Michael – never before and never in another country (except when I was in the service)

  18. Michael – no, I’ve never seen a person killed in an accident. I’m quite surprised with your personal stats. Pedestrians die in every country though.

    Of course it’s worrying that almost twice more people die in car accidents in Poland than in the UK, but there might be many more reasons for that than bad driving. The statistics include everyone who died during 30 days after an accident. Perhaps the UK ambulances and hospitals are better in rescuing the injured. There may be also more bus accidents here than in England, and so on. It’s difficult to support a judgmental view with just two numbers.

    Sure, people don’t die if there are no accidents at all, but considering that the UK’s roads, rules and drivers are so much better than ours how does it happen that there are almost 4 times more injury accidents in the UK than in Poland?

  19. Just for balance, perhaps we should also compare the figures for people dying from being stabbed by teenagers or injured by the antics or aggression of drunken youths.

    There may a higher law governing all this, every country has to have so many deaths a year they just do it in different ways. :)

    It would be interesting to see how many Polish people can kill themselves on a Warsaw equivalent of the M25 in heavy fog, which is one of the UK’s favourite ways to commit suicide/murder. Still, neither fog nor an M25 are likely to happen in my lifetime so……

    I think the point about the health service is a very valid one. Certainly the cost of my Polish life insurance suggests that there is a big difference between the likelyhood of me being fixed up here versus in the UK.

    Another might well be the quality of the cars involved. Not many Maluchs in the UK.

  20. Sylvia, the answer is respect for the rule of law. Drive any distance down some windy A-road as I often do, and when it says ’50’, everyone drives at 50, when you pass a village, it says ’40’, or even ’30’, and people do so.

    It’s always been that way. I learned to drive in London and drove on Britain’s roads for 16 years before moving to Poland. Courtesy, consideration, forethought – these are all things taught by UK driving schools. I remember my first lesson. The instructor’s first words to me were: “This car can be a lethal weapon. If improperly used, it can kill people”. (I wonder if Polish driving schools stress these points?).

    I hold that because (as Darthsida alluded), hot-blooded Polish males have been deprived of access to cars for so long, as soon as they became available, they’d do anything to own one – even live in a crappy flat rather than take a sensible mortgage on a nice house – to have that Beemer or Merc in their local strzeżony. That BMW 7-series of Merc SL can and will do 250 kmp/h – yes – except its 20 years old and has knackered brakes and tyres.

    But it’s also something you mentioned on your thought provoking blog article about manners. A Brit will show good manners to someone he’s never met and will never meet. A Poles doesn’t feel the need to (or else feels that it’s all false and insincere). This comes out in differences in driving style.

    Scatts – you had some great website with stats some while back – does that give relative murder and car accident fatality data comparisons UK to Poland?

  21. A Maluch is like a Volvo. When involved in a head-on collision at 60 kmph, in both cases the engine remains intact.

    I forgot to mention traffic cameras. They may be terribly unpopular, but they do work!

  22. Micheal, I would take that explanation if not for the numbers.

    See page 11

    203,682 injury car accidents in the UK and 48,100 in Poland in the same year. Clearly less people die in effect of those accidents in the UK than in Poland, but the number of them (second only to Italy) doesn’t say anything nice about the English courtesy.

    “A Maluch is like a Volvo. When involved in a head-on collision at 60 kmph, in both cases the engine remains intact.”

    That one is hilarious! You realise that the engine in Maluch is at the back of the car? :-D

    I’m not sure Brits always drove so well. The numbers of deaths in the 1970s there were worse than ours are now. Clearly the situation improved, and it improves in Poland, but I think that comparing two countries with completely different conditions, from roads to weather, is like comparing apples to oranges.

    It’s true that the number of cars in Poland rose about 78% during just a few years in the 1990s, but the number of deaths didn’t. It was pretty bad before that, even though cars were much slower. Perhaps it’s not speed driving that is the major problem.

  23. Yes, but hold on a minute. This road crossing routine is a two way street (excuse the pun).

    The problem we have now in Poland is “the strange case of the titanium human beings”. There is a significant percentage of pedestrians who consider themselves to be indestructible and that they can just launch themselves onto the crossings with absolutely no regard for oncoming traffic (because they have the right!). After which they usually dawdle across at half normal walking speed.

    This is a game that needs to played fair by both sides, pedestrians and drivers. Drivers need to do all the things mentioned in above comments but equally, pedestrians need to be more considerate when crossing the road, stop ‘goading’ drivers like they are matadors or something and stop walking/cycling around on dark roads when pissed as a newt!

    I’m a considerate pedestrian AND driver, why can’t everyone else do the same?

  24. I agree – it is certainly a two way street and if both groups would act accordingly life would be easier for both.

    I can’t tell you how many times I have stopped to allow somebody to cross and they hesitate either from amazement or from fear that I’ll gun the engine and run them down when they are halfway across.

  25. Sywia wrote:

    “Micheal, I would take that explanation if not for the numbers”

    Take a look at Figure 2 on P. 7.

    Fatalities per million inhabitants: Poland 143, UK 55. (2005 figures)

    That’s over two and half times higher. But this figure does not take into consideration the fact that the number of cars on the roads of the UK (30 million) is far greater than in Poland (18 million). Take the fatalities and the cars figure together, and the difference between the two countries is four and half fold greater (I wrote ‘five fold’ – that’s based on stats for 2002).

    I rest my case.

    Another smash-up on ul. Puławska this morning. My wife passed it on her way to work at 07:20; when I passed the scene at 10:40 the police and breakdown services were still clearing up. Horrible mess.

  26. Still looking at the stats that Sylwia linked. I recommend that EVERYONE do likewise. In 2005, Poland had more road fatalities THAN ANY OTHER EU COUNTRY!

    Pretty blunt statement, eh?

  27. Michael, no one argues that Poland doesn’t have more fatalities than any other EU country. It does, and it’s very sad and worrisome. All I’m saying is that it’s too easy to make an informed judgement about the superiority of one’s driving basing it on just two numbers.

    So OK, Brits have over 30% more cars than Poles, but the number of injury accidents isn’t 30% larger but 300%! The same number of accidents in Poland wouldn’t give over 5,000 fatalities as it is now, but well over 20,000.

    The number of injured in car accidents in 2005 – Poland: 59,123, the UK: 252,593.

    Clearly Poles have much less chances to survive such an accident, but lately they said in our news that Poles have also much less chances to survive cancer. 30% of all car accidents’ victims in Poland die in hospitals, and likely more yet on the road because an ambulance didn’t reach them on time. You have twice more chances to survive an accident in an urban area here, that is close to a hospital, than in a rural one. And the urban one often isn’t that urban. Those are also nearly all of the small villages that our roads cross. BTW the speed limit there isn’t 70 kmph but 60.

    Also, the number of fatal accidents is smaller than the number of victims (table 3. page 14). 4.878 in Poland as compared to 3,040 in the UK. So there are more people dying in one fatal accident in Poland than in the UK. Perhaps there are averagely more people in a car or bus here.

    The number of cars owned by us doesn’t equal the number of cars on our roads. There were nearly 75 million of foreign cars on Polish roads in 2007 including almost 12 million of trucks. This report says that the number of foreign cars in the UK is 3 million. Shouldn’t we then count 18+75 = 93 million of cars on Polish roads, and 30+3 = 33 million of cars on the UK’s in your estimations of a reasonable death count?

    Tables 9. and 10. pages 18 and 19 show that we have almost twice more fatalities in accidents involving lorries and trucks than the UK – 1,425 while the number of truck drivers dying in them is only 149 (table 35. page 36). Which means that the remaining 1,276 are pedestrians or people sitting in other cars. The presence of so many trucks also forces other drivers to overtake them more often, by that making our narrow roads much more dangerous and driving much more strenuous. Take the 12 million trucks to the UK and tell me what happens.

    Incidentally, the number of fatalities in Latvia and Lithuania (some of the countries that use Polish roads for transit) per million of inhabitants is far greater than in Poland. The number of fatalities in the UK is remarkably law, but it used to be over 200 per million of inhabitants in the past, so higher than here. From what I read the success is, among others, greatly due to better and safer cars, and your country’s efforts in rescuing the victims, while the positive effect of cameras is disputable. The causes of accidents remained as they were though.

    Many more pedestrians die in Poland than in the UK, and indeed, pedestrians themselves are said to be the second most common cause of car accidents (after drivers of course), but then how many pedestrians (and especially children) are there on the UK’s motorways? On the other hand many more motorcycle riders and their passengers die in the UK than in Poland. Perhaps you have more of them.

    Also see table 55. page 64. The number of fatal accidents at junction – Poland: 814, the UK: 1090. Roundabouts in Poland: 6 accidents, the UK: 79. Are you sure that the UK’s drivers are so courteous if they have so many accidents at junctions? After all it’s very easy to have an accident on a bad road, esp. while overtaking another car, or when it rains or snows and one can’t see the huge holes there, but how on earth one has a fatal accident on a roundabout?

    So all in all, while I can see that we have awful roads, bad cars, a huge number of trucks, and a hopeless health care system, I can’t see how Brits would fair so much better on our roads and in our cars just thanks to their manners and a better traffic code. On the contrary, I think that the number of fatalities would hit the roof.

    Speed and the number of cars vs. bad roads: the number of fatalities in Poland in 2006 was 5,243, in 1980 – 6,000, in 1990 (yet before we bought all of the cars) – 7,333.

    On a final note – from the British-Polish Chamber of Commerce link several posts above:

    This quote is taken from a British Embassy newsletter: “Of course, driving in Poland is always a ‘challenge’. Oh, how we laughed to see determined over-takers coming towards us, on the wrong side of the road, before pulling in at the last moment, while someone came from behind and tried to nudge us into the side of the road as they sped past with a cheery flash of hazards at 90mph”.

    I’m afraid it’s as funny as driving on the right in the UK and laughing that everyone else is going the wrong way. It is considered courteous and considerate in Poland to help other drivers to overtake your car. No one is trying to nudge anybody, it’s one’s duty towards others to make them room. Laughing is the last thing one should do. By not making them way one endangers everyone else’s life.

  28. Sylwia – you make some valid points (trucks in transit), some questionable manipulations of stats (adding ‘foreign cars’ on Poland’s and UK’s respective roads – much of this is single-pass transit traffic, and let’s face it, the UK’s not exactly the heart of Europe), some wrong conclusions (let’s compare the number of roundabouts in the UK with Poland – I think comparing the number of roundabouts in Basingstoke with the number in the whole of Poland would be more accurate).

    Speed and accidents – Britain had more road fatalities in 1926 than in 2005, so what you say is not surprising. Just a steeper learning curve.

    At the end of the day, Sylwia, I’ve spent 16 years driving up and down the UK and 11 years driving the length and breadth of Poland. This is a very, very, simple, generalised, observation. Polish driving is more dangerous and less courteous than in Britain. My wife, driving into Warsaw every day, is stressed out completely by the ultra-competitive bastards who just have to force their cars into tiny gaps, endangering life and limb, just to get to work three minutes earlier. They are utterly pathetic. This is how it ends up:,34862,5468099,Karambol_i_gigantyczne_korki_na_trasie_Piaseczno_Warszawa.html

    Please also note that I wrote that BPCC article back in 2002 and still stand by every word. Things have got better but only slightly. The quote comes from a Brit, who like EVERY OTHER BRIT I HAVE EVER MET IN 11 YEARS in Poland is horrified by the appalling standards of driving here.

    Unless things change, 5,500 Poles are destined to lose their lives on the roads of this country within the next 12 months. They could be our loved ones. They could be people whose talents could help Poland’s future development. I wish this mad driving could stop. We need to show maximum intolerance to speeding, inconsiderate overtaking (na trzeciego), impatience, tailgating, aggression, and other such sins of the road.


  29. Please note – in this discussion, I’m not dissing Poland or Poles – just the way a significant minority of Poles drive. What’s needed is a massive, society-wide change of attitude towards the car and its place on public roads.

    Poland beats the UK hands down in so many areas of life. When we moved here in 1997, talking to expats about what they don’t like about Poland, all mentioned the same two things: driving and bureaucracy.

    What’s better in Poland than the UK?
    Fresh, tasty, food at affordable prices (esp. seasonal fruit and veg)
    Safer streets, less crime (comparing Ursynów to Ealing here)
    Better weather (proper summers, proper winters)
    A better environment for raising children – better primary and secondary schools that produce literate and numerate pupils

    That’s just for starters! Now… let’s all improve our driving, to make Poland an even better place to live and raise families.

  30. Michael: “some questionable manipulations of stats (adding ‘foreign cars’ on Poland’s and UK’s respective roads – much of this is single-pass transit traffic…)”

    I hope you don’t mean to imply that I’m manipulative. A single-pass transit can be as long as 1,000 km. Some locals, who never drive farther than to fetch smokes, don’t make that many even in a year. The fact is that whenever one drives out of town one sees a significant number of foreign cars, and they don’t want to be transparent. When they cause an accidents it’s counted as our accident. I’ll add that foreigners are more likely to cause accidents in the UK than in Poland. Perhaps it’s easier to learn the Polish driving than the left-hand driving.

    I have no idea what is the number of roundabouts in Poland, but the number of them in the UK is said to be ca 10,000. (You guys count everything it seems ;-)) 79/6=13.16 So if there is more than 760 roundabouts in Poland (and I bet that there is) my calculation stands. However, it shouldn’t really be counted this way, because the more roundabouts there is the less accidents at junctions there’s supposed to be.

    The number of fatalities in the UK fell to such a low number only in the mid-1990s.

    I absolutely don’t question anyone’s personal experience, but I finished one of those great secondary schools with major in maths and physics. ;-) When one speaks of their private feelings it’s their right to feel as they do, when one speaks of stats, it’s my fun to look at them closer. It’s clear even from what you wrote some posts above that you didn’t have your share of encountering 3 (and likely 5 if we take the situation in the early 1990s) deaths on the UK’s roads that statistically were your due. The accidents you saw don’t say anything about the general situation, just that you happened to be where they took place, or live where they’re most likely to take place. It doesn’t make the accidents any less dramatic though.

    As to everyone’s individual opinions – I’m a woman, and I swear that I’ve never met a man who wouldn’t think that his driving is superior to others’ or at least excellent. And so I’m not surprised that Brits think that the Polish driving is horrible and aggressive, but then I wouldn’t be surprised with Poles thinking that Brits can’t drive at all or that their driving is not dynamical, especially on Polish roads. Personally, I find driving the most frustrating in Austria (on a highway) and in Italy (on the narrow roads in mountains), and crossing a street as a pedestrian in France. But all it says is that I’m neither Austrian, Italian nor French.

    I’m definitely not trying to say that Poles are great drivers, and I have no idea how Brits drive (with the exception of Clarkson &Co. of course). I agree that we should try harder! But I’m also realistic. There’s no way you could teach Poles driving in any different manner. My guess is that once there are more better roads Poles will slow down. Much of the present situation is caused by the simple fact that it takes one 5 hrs to drive 300 km. Drivers overtake whenever they can because they don’t want to make it 6. And there are good reasons for that too. One drives much worse when one is tired.

    I used to share your wife’s stress only very shortly. Now either I’m not in a hurry and so I let them slip in front of me or I am in a hurry and there’s no way I’d let anyone. On the other hand, slipping in front of others is very easy for a woman. It’s enough to smile.

    One more thought about Poles and their approach to cars. I think it’s possible that Brits risk mostly their own cars, so they’re more careful not to have a collision. Poles, in large, drive their company’s cars, and so they don’t care one bit about the scratches. Tailgating isn’t such a fun when you pay the insurance. :-D

    *Sigh* The only Polish driver I cared about today came 7th.

  31. “I have no idea how Brits drive” This is what it all boils down to. Different ways of collecting stats, roundabouts, transit traffic – but at the end of the day, anyone who’s driven any distance in Poland and in the UK cannot help but comment on the difference.

    In Britain, if you try changing lanes, indicating in advance your desire to do so, you will usually be allowed to do so with a courteous flash of lights. In Poland, the guy in the other lane will speed up just to ensure that you don’t change lanes into the space ahead of him. The gulf is stunning. During my first (driving) trip back to the UK after a year or so in Warsaw, I was amazed at how I’d developed fighter pilot-like Total Situational Awareness – my head was forever jerking this way and that to ensure that some nutter wasn’t bearing down on me, cutting me up, pulling out from the left… then I realised I was back in the UK and driving was – well, more civilised.

    I take your point about bad roads. They frustrate; frustration causes otherwise sensible drivers to push it some. Driving down ul. Puławska, south Warsaw, note how the maniacs have the WPI number-plates (Piaseczno) rather than urban WI or WN plates. We must all learn how to curb frustration and resultant aggression.

    The charitable view is that Poland is a nation in a hurry, a country with more drive and energy than the lethargic Brits.

    It’s wrong to say you can’t change a nation’s attitudes. They’re changing all the time, generally for the better, I’d argue (whereas in the UK, they’re changing for the worse – which is why I’m happier here).

    Do you remember in the early 1990s, when Polish pundits said that ‘hypermarkets will never catch on in Poland, because the Poles will thieve the shops empty in hours’? Somehow hypermarkets have caught on big time.

    Another weekend of slaughter on Poland’s roads, I note :-(

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