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It's About Safe Polish Roads

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It's About Safe Polish Roads

Anna Kowalczyk, Communications Officer in the Poland Office, offers this story.

Twenty-four year old Karolina Zielinska was in a car that was hit by another driver who didn't stop. She flew through the windshield and spent weeks in hospital recovering from head injuries.

"The biggest lesson I've learnt is that you should always have your seat belt fastened," she says.

Safety is a lesson still being taught to Polish drivers, passengers and pedestrians. Yet, a recent national campaign telling people to buckle up and to think twice about speeding or downing a beer or two before getting behind the wheel is having an effect.

"Switch on your Brain," as the campaign is called, uses memorable and graphic television and print ads and posters urging Poles to be safe. As part of the campaign, road safety is promoted at public events on busy holiday weekends. Defensive driving classes have been organized.

Initial reports say the marketing push is making Polish roads safer overall by substantially decreasing the number of deaths and accidents, although the number of accidents in the first half of 2011 was higher than the previous year's.

Karolina Zielinska
Karolina Zielinska

"My goal would be to decrease the number of car accidents to zero," says Ms. Katarzyna Turska, National Council for Road Safety Director. "Before this can happen, we need to constantly remind people to take responsibility for their driving habits, to simply switch their brains on."

Changing drivers' habits is one step, making roads safer is another. New road signs, crosswalks and traffic lights were installed on the major road linking Warsaw and Plonsk. A new driveway was built off the highway in the small town of Dzierzaznia so children can get on and off school buses inside school property instead of dodging lanes of traffic.

Katarzyna Turska
Katarzyna Turska

Crosswalks on the national road between Wierzbica and Pultusk are now brightly lit at night thanks to an innovative solar system, allowing drivers and pedestrians to see better at night and reducing the number of car accidents.

The planning and execution of the safety campaign, and new road safety measures were supported by the World Bank as part of the Poland Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Program. The project worked to develop a sustainable and balanced safety system between drivers, pedestrians and road conditions.

In addition to promoting safety, the project improved roads, increased the effectiveness of staff responsible for fixing and maintaining roads and highways, and established funding for maintenance.

Thanks to the project, the percentage of Polish national roads that are in good condition increased from 49% in 2005 to nearly 60% in 2011. The length of the road network that can handle heavy trucks has more than doubled, significantly exceeding its target.

The capacity of staff from the Ministry of Infrastructure and the General Directorate of Public Roads and Motorways to operate efficiently and effectively was increased through training and updated equipment. Even with current financial constraints, staff can improve how it plans road rehabilitation and maintenance works. And the government is aware of the need to continue upgrading and maintaining the road network.

Poles surveyed as part of the project said they were more satisfied with the country's road conditions and safety than in the past.




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