Friday, March 30, 2012

Highways in hell

Expats in Poland agree on one thing usually: Polish roads are hellish and Polish drivers are insane. Most prefer rail, which seems safe though isn't always. A few opt for air, which is cheaper and cheaper. But almost no one drives unless they have to.

I am the exception. When I first came to Poland in the mid-1990s, Polish roads were indeed scary but they were also extremely exciting. It was like driving in the early video game Outrun (pictured).

Coming from Western Canada, where falling asleep at the wheel is a big danger, I could appreciate the fact I was never sleepy driving in Poland. On the contrary, I was riddled with adrenalin.

I thus learned to drive like a true Pole: fast, hard, aggressive. You are not driving if you aren't internally timing yourself.

Over the years, I've been party to many a fight on whether driving was so dangerous in Poland because of the roads or drivers. I have usually said the roads: the poor quality of them forces one to take risks in order to salvage a half-decent time.

Most say the drivers: you have to adjust driving to the roads. I usually view the latter like I view rational economic theory -- fine in practice but woefully inadequate when confronted by the messy irrational actors we all are.

I have also believed things aren't that dangerous. New data suggests I'm wrong.

Poland had the most deadly roads in the EU in 2011. A full 109 people died in road accidents for every 1mn people, according to just released European Commission data. The EU average was 61. Greece was second with 97. The UK was the safest at just 32.

Methinks the roads and drivers need to improve massively, though not of course, ahem, me, who naturally is the perfect driver….

1 comment:

  1. I once made the trip from Montreal to Toronto is 5 hours with my Crown Vic. (The engine the police use.) The stretch around Kingston was almost flat, with only early morning fog and a truck convoy to accompany the wind tearing at my car door frame. I would have rolled into T.O. earlier but the traffic from Whitby at 6am was getting heavy. The roads were in much better condition.... I wouldn't try it here.

    Hell, yeah, I remember Outrun. The music was cool.