The last decade was a period of motorisation boom in Poland, with the number of passenger cars almost doubling. This was accompanied by an increase in annual vehicle kilometres and a rapid expansion of road freight and passenger transport. Further factors characterising the situation on Polish roads have included: low compliance with basic safety regulations, lack of effective enforcement, poor infrastructure, mixed traffic, linear villages, under-performing emergency medical and rescue services and a general lack of awareness about the importance of road safety. Since 1990, these factors combined have contributed to over 90,000 fatalities on Polish roads and 950,000 injuries, with many remaining disabled for the rest of their lives.
The alarming road safety situation in the early 1990's called for a multidisciplinary coordination body to tackle the devastating safety situation on Polish roads. Its primary aim is to prevent a further increase in road crashes. A national road safety plan is to provide a solid basis for guidance and strategy in road safety efforts and lead to a sustainable increase in road safety.
The National Road Safety Council (NRSC) has undertaken the efforts to provide directions and coordinate activities aimed at improving the road safety measures implemented by all relevant institutions in view of abating road crashes and their effects. Steps were taken to develop and implement the national road safety programme, and a list of statutory tasks for NRSC has been set out:
- Recommending guidance of state policy
- Developing and appraising road safety programmes
- Initiating research works, legal acts, international agreements and staff training programs
- Conducting international cooperation
- Working closely with social institutions and NGOs
- Instigating road safety education, publicity and promotion campaigns
- Monitoring and evaluation of road safety activities
The basis for the NRSC's coordinated road safety efforts were laid down upon the completion of the National Road Safety Programme in Poland, GAMBIT 2000, approved by the government in 2001. The programme is being revised and new updated version of GAMBIT 2005 is currently being prepared. The overall aim is to achieve an effective and sustainable improvement of road safety, mainly in terms of the number of road fatalities. GAMBIT has set a goal of reducing the number of fatalities to no more than 4,000 per annum by 2010. This will hopefully be attained through implementation of long-term and short-term tasks of two types:
- Establishing a countrywide road safety structure
- Implementing road safety countermeasures
At the executive level, the programme has established primary areas for road safety activities nationwide, and identified measures to be taken against the main factors contributing to poor road safety. Based on this, seven critical areas for improvement were derived:
- Excessive speed
- Drunk driving
- Crash severity
- Vulnerable road users
- Young drivers
- Rural roads
- Black spots
Based on the road safety diagnosis and forecasts, guidelines for an effective road safety policy were formulated. It was assumed that road safety improvement efforts should primarily focus on:
- Implementing road safety measures within the seven critical areas
- Establishing basis for an effective and long-term road safety policy
- Gaining public and political support to road safety initiatives
The target set by the European Commission to reduce the number of road fatalities by 50% by 2010 calls for even stronger engagement. As a new Member State, Poland has committed itself to increase its efforts to meet the EC's challenge and the National Road Safety Programme will be revised accordingly. Road safety will also be incorporated into the national transport strategy.
The road network in Poland is under continuous development. With over 377,000 km of roads in 2004, the average density is over 80 km per 100 km2. By mid 2004, there were 483.5 km of highways and 216 km of express roads in Poland. The construction of four main arteries is planned, which will extend the existing highway network. Membership in the EU has already accelerated the process of upgrading the road network by ensuring significant funding. Structural funds are being used to construct a high-quality national road network. Development funds are also increasingly channeled to regional and local roads through the regional authorities. The vehicle fleet is more than 16.6 million, of which over 11.9 million are passenger cars. Polands motorisation rate has grown rapidly following the countrys accession to the EU.
Road Safety Situation
Despite progress in recent years, Poland still maintains one of the worst road safety records in the EU and road crashes and associated injuries and fatalities continue to take a huge toll on Polish society and on the economy. Over the past 15 years (1990 - 2004) there were more than 820,000 road crashes in which almost 100,000 persons were killed and more than 1 million injured. In 2004, there were 51,069 crashes resulting in 5,712 fatalities and 64,661 injuries. Poland has both a high road crash exposure rate (15 killed / 100 thousand people) and high road crash severity rate, with 11 persons killed per every 100 crashes. Annual costs of road crashes are estimated at 9 billion USD.
Most of the contributory factors are common to Central Europe: the dangerous behavior of road users, mainly drivers (often young) including excessive speed, alcohol, non-use of protective devices; insufficient protection of vulnerable road users; poor condition of road infrastructure including linear villages and unforgiving road surrounding; mixed traffic. A breakdown of crashes by type can be viewed in the graphic "road crashes by kind in 2004".
Vehicle occupants make-up the largest group of road crash casualties in Poland. An alarming number of pedestrians are also involved in road crashes. Pedestrians account for 35% of the total number of road deaths. Although two-wheelers are not a very common mode of transport, cyclists and moped riders combined account for 13% of fatalities. The breakdown of road fatalities by category can be viewed in the graphic "killed in road crashes - 2004".
The new National Road Safety Programme, GAMBIT 2005, prescribes a broad range of preventive activities in all areas of the road safety system. The Programme includes five primary objectives:
• develop foundations for effective and long term road safety interventions
• improve road user behaviour
• protect pedestrians, children, and cyclists
• build and maintain safe road infrastructure
• reduce the severity and consequences of road crashes
Each objective comprises a package of actions and specific measures to meet the fatality reduction target at the national level. According to the programme, the greatest opportunities for saving lives lie in a more stringent enforcement combined with awareness activities and improving the safety standards of road infrastructure. Estimates point to the opportunity to prevent 16,800 fatalities, 180,000 injuries and save 23 billion USD by 2013 if the measures identified in the programme are implemented in full.
Funding of road safety activities is ensured by the state budget, loans from the World Bank and the European Investment Bank. After EU accession an increased level of financing has been made available for road safety from the EU funds. Private donors including individuals and private sector companies also play a role, yet to a much lesser extent.
Road Safety Coordination
Poland has a National Road Safety Council (NRSC) made up of representatives from relevant governmental entities, including: transportation, home affairs, justice, public administration, finance, economy, spatial planning, education, environment, health, police, fire services, national roads and others. The executive secretariat of the NRSC is housed within the Ministry of Transport and Construction. The primary responsibility of the NRSC is to lead and coordinate road safety activities at the national level (Road Safety Overview in Poland). Regional road safety councils operate in each of the 16 regions, performing similar duties to the NRSC on a regional level. NGOs, universities, research institutes and others are active in various fields of road safety and work hand in hand with the NRSC and the regional councils.
In the last decade, despite the increase in the number of vehicles by over 50% and growing share of road transportation in the modal split, the number of road traffic fatalities decreased by 1/3. Traffic exposure is on a downward trend as well.
The improvements result from numerous developments, including initiatives linked to Polands National Road Safety Programme GAMBIT 2000. Following EU accession in 2004, Poland accepted the challenge presented in the European Road Safety Action Programme and the Government approved an updated National Road Safety Programme, GAMBIT 2005, which aims at halving the number of road deaths in the period 2003- 2013 to no more than 2,800. A long-term vision until 2020 is also presented.
The National Development Plan for 2007 - 2013, National Transportation Policy 2005-2025, and the Transportation Development Policy 2007 - 2013 are important policies supporting road safety improvements. GAMBIT 2005 is considered the "action" plan to implement the road safety improvement goals set out in the afore mentioned policies.
Road Safety Overview: .ppt (900 KB)
National Road Safety Council www.krbrd.gov.pl
The Motor Transport Institute. The statutory and primary objective of ITS activity is to improve road safety in Poland http://www.its.home.pl/nsite/index_en.php
Warsaw University of Technology, The Faculty of Transport. The Faculty of Transport conducts research, which is of direct relevance to transport problems, etc. http://www.pw.edu.pl/english/index.html