Car Accidents in Poland on Corpus Christi Weekend
Thirty nine people killed
455 reported road accidents
That's the road accident toll in Poland after the most recent long weekend around the feast of Corpus Christi.
The police report that the majority were caused by drink driving.
So how can we combat this awful carnage on the roads? Indeed, is it possible to effectively tackle the root causes? With legions of traffic cops already out in force, a strict points penal system and mass advertising against drink driving, why do some drivers just not get the fucking point?
In one sense, it's important to keep this issue in perspective. There were millions of people on the road at the weekend throughout Poland in a hell of a lot of cars. So the percentage of reported accidents in proportion to the amount of cars in transit was really quite minimal.
That said, the truly tragic element of these accidents are that they were due to avoidable human error, that is, if the people behind the wheel didn't have their senses impaired through alcohol intoxication, they may well be alive today.
And are there other factors that make Poland Europe's car accident fatality black spot? Car ownership in Poland has risen 200% over the past decade, from 138 per 1,000 population in 1990 to 351 per 1,000 population in 2006. The average for western Europe in 2006 was 517 per 1,000.
New-car sales increased almost 20% year on year in the first quarter of 2008. This percentage growth is expected to continue for the rest of this year. With increased ownership of cars it seems more likely that fatalities on the road will also increase. However, the issue is not so black and white.
According to International Road Assessment Programme (IRAP) Poland had 5,444 road accident fatalities in 2005, the highest in Europe. Furthermore, "the rate of road accident deaths per population in Poland is the highest of the European Union countries in the Transport Statistics Programme, comparable with the USA, but much less than that of Russia. Car occupants are the most common victims, followed by pedestrians."
Yet, the accident fatalities in 2005 had actually fallen from a high in recent times of 7,333 in 1990. Better roads, car protection, servicing, driving lesson standards, etc. evidently have had an impact and helped cause this reduction.
Shite road surfaces, less control at the wheel due to high alcohol levels, the quest for adrenaline through speed, showing off, a lack of giving a fuck - who's to know how these and more recently combined to have 53 families in mourning on Mother's Day in Poland.
The BBC reported last year that in the fight against drink driving amongst Poles in England, advertisements in County Durham were put up with the help of the Department of Transport. With the image of a bell they ask: "Jakie bedzie twoje ostatnie zamowienie?" Translated, it means: "What will your last order be?"
Underneath drinkers are advised that "Jesli piles na imprezie, zamow do domu taksowke", which means "if you've enjoyed a drink tonight, then order a cab home".
We all know a number of people - family, friends and neighbours - who have died in what we may well deem 'avoidable' car accidents. I have been lucky to only have had two minor motorbike accidents and some minor scrapes from the bike. And I know I will not be at fault for any car accidents in the sense of this post's topic cause I neither have a car (nor desire one), nor drink alcohol.
I just hope people getting into their cars tonight in Poland, after having a few drinks, find an alternative way home and keep their own health and safety and the lives of others in safekeeping!