While in Poland, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
I tried to gather some most important information about safety on Polish roads. It is for general reference only, and may not be completely accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
You must have an International Driving Permit (IDP), obtained prior to departure from the United States, as well as a U.S. driver’s license, in order to drive in Poland. A U.S. driver’s license alone is not enough, and U.S. citizens cannot obtain IDPs in Poland. Only two U.S. automobile associations — the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) — have been authorized by the U.S. Department of State to distribute IDPs. Polish roadside services, while not always at American levels, are rapidly improving. Polski Związek Motorowy Auto-Tour has multilingual operators and provides assistance countrywide 24/7. You can reach them by calling 19637, (22) 532-8427, or (22) 532-8433. The police emergency number is 997, fire service is 998, ambulance service is 999, and the general emergency number is 112. Seat belts are compulsory in both the front and back seats, and children under the age of 12 are prohibited from riding in the front seat. Children younger than 12 years old and who are shorter than 4’11” must ride in a child car seat. You must use headlights year round, at all times, day and night (I keep forgetting about this one while driving in Poland!). The use of cellular phones while driving is prohibited except for hands-free models. Making a right turn on a red light is not allowed.
Again, these are rules, but you will see that not everyone abides them…My husband I travelled in Poland so many times, always with US Drivers License ( I also had my Polish ones). We never obtained IDP, but we were also never stopped by a police, so I’m not sure what the consequences would have been.
You should note that road fatalities are high in Poland, placing it among the more dangerous places to drive in Europe. There has been a substantial increase in the number of cars on Polish roads and driving, especially after dark, is hazardous. Roads are sometimes narrow, poorly lighted, frequently under repair (especially in the summer months), and are often also used by pedestrians and cyclists. The Ministry of Infrastructure has a program called “Black Spot” (Czarny Punkt), which places signs at locations with a particularly high number of accidents and/or casualties. The signs have a black spot on a yellow background, and the road area around the “black spot” is marked with red diagonal lines.
Alcohol consumption is frequently a contributing factor in accidents (http://blogs.transparent.com/polish/smoking-and-drinking/). Polish law provides virtually zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol, and penalties for doing so (defined as a blood alcohol level of 0.02 or higher) include a fine and probation or imprisonment for up to two years. Penalties for drivers involved in accidents are severe, and can include imprisonment from six months to eight years or, in the case of drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs, up to twelve years.
Within cities, taxis are available at major hotels and designated stands or may be ordered in advance by telephone. Some drivers speak English and accept credit cards. When hailing taxis on the street, you should avoid those that do not have a telephone number displayed since these may not have meters and many of them charge significantly more. Do not accept assistance from self-professed “taxi drivers” who approach you in the arrivals terminal or outside the doors at Warsaw Airport, but rather use only those that display telephone numbers and a company name and are at designated taxi stands (http://blogs.transparent.com/polish/transportation-in-poland/).
Unpredictable weather throughout the year can cause problems on the roads. For instance, Poland experienced numerous floods in 2010, during which many bridges were closed and road travel was significantly disrupted. Please monitor local conditions when traveling. You can visit the website of Poland’s National Tourist Office and Poland’s Ministry of Infrastructure,which is responsible for road safety.
Here is also a video with most of the warning signs you may see while driving in Poland:
Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)