This was originally posted on FB as a comment following the news that eighteen people had needlessly died in another spectacularly horrible accident on Polish roads.
It’s good to see that people are finally saying what half the country is thinking.
There will come a day when the selfish, aggressive and rude 50% of Polish drivers learn how to drive like civilised people, when Polish roads are fit to drive on and Polish police are effective. That time is a little way off into the future.
Instead of listening to criticism and, geezus, learning from what they see on television every day, many Poles evidently prefer to get the snit on and mumble about the roads being crap and whoever criticises half the country’s driving style being anti-Polish.
Good common sense is something half of us are yet to learn, it seems, too, since our automatic reactions like those today verge on the ridiculous : there will come a time when instead of stopping to mourn, pray and fly flags at half mast the country will expect the guilty to be caught, tried and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We do mourning very well. How about, instead, learning not to create events which are the cause of mourning?
There will come a time when half the Poles who still haven’t, will learn the value of common courtesy and basic common sense on the road, when half the country’s drivers stop behaving like adolescent boy racers and when the other half stops rolling their eyes and start to expect that kind of deadly behaviour to be the exception and not the norm.
For this to happen a lot of other sociological phenomena need to occur, but there will come a day when “Polish reality” becomes like any other country’s reality, with a few ordinary quirks and garden variety screwballs being the exception instead of rudeness and aggression being the norm. Unfortunately, that goes not just for the roads but that’s a subject for another post…
As for the state of the roads, the excuse that this is a poor country with terrible infrastructure left over from another era is eye-wash.
1. If local councils acquired and spent EU funds wisely - instead of lining their own pockets and those of their cronies - we wouldn’t have such terrible roads; Take a drive through the country and see. It is clear to see where a council has taken the time and energy to invest in infrastructure. Then it’s off the good quality tar seal and back to the potholes.
2. Poland is not a poor country. Count the Audis and the Mercedes, the number of cars on the roads is exploding. Last I checked we were actually pretty well off on many scales and looking better each year and petrol is about the same price as everywhere else so lack of excise tax coming into the state coffers is not the problem. Money is, generally, not the problem. Lack of political will, supported of course by a strong public mandate, that is the problem; that and crookedness, of course.
3. Good drivers slow down when the road they’re driving on is bad. Bad drivers don’t care and don’t think.
4. Then there is the macho idiot attitude. A few days ago I had occasion to listen to one moron describing, with considerable delight, the criminal driving practices of a friend. The friend wasn’t of course a bad driver, in fact he was “a very good driver, he was just full of bravura”. In my book that describes a moron with his name on an accident report just waiting to happen.
The problem lies with the people who use the roads. Half of us are aggressive, impatient, unthinking fools not fit to be in charge of a moving vehicle. The other half do not demand enough that the government should spend care and resources on improving the infrastructure and bring full criminal prosecution against those causing the worst driving statistics in Europe. Thirty thousand people have died on Polish roads since we joined the EU in 2004. That’s over half of the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam war. It’s a massacre out there and the general attitude of the government seems to be one of impotence, plus preoccupation with party in-fighting.
Here is a suggestion: how about instead of putting black ribbons on flags (an automatic gesture of sympathy but one that is as empty and meaningless as it is devoid of any practical influence on making things better) we put black ribbons on our car aerials, as a reminder of the deadly behaviour out there.
Maybe if half the country hangs black ribbons on their cars, the other half will slow down enough to wonder why. That would be a good start.
Information just to hand from the European Road Assessment Programme:
(Note : it’s worse than I thought…)
Black signifies where the risk of getting killed or seriously maimed is highest. Red means slightly less deadly, and so on… Green means “very low risk”, but you really have to look hard to find any green on this map. As for the immediate comments i expect of “the roads are terrible and dangerous” let’s just remember that there have not been any recorded incidents of a length of asphalt jumping up and killing someone, so it really is a case of “roads don’t kill people, people kill people.”