Important! This law failed. From 2017 there is no change.

Any foreigner stepping onto a crossing in Poland may wonder why a car accelerates towards you, rather than slowing down. Beware, it’s because they can, legally. Yes, you have to give way to cars. There are changes afoot which will give pedestrians the right of way.

image car at pedestrian crossing

Crossing the road is an adventure in Poland

Walkers giving way to cars at a pedestrian zebra crossing seems a preposterous idea for the typical commonwealth ex-pat, and dangerous for tourists and new arrivals. Polish law says that cars must only stop for a pedestrian that is already on a crossing.

From 1st January 2017, the law changes and a pedestrian at a crossing, will have priority over an oncoming car. The Polish press is posing questions whether it’s a good or bad thing. The good: it’s safer, if all drivers follow the new law. The bad: they might not, and there are visibility issues with many crossings.

SEE ALSO: Poland’s worst speeding drivers, by region

Polish children are taught in schools that approaching crosswalks, they have to stop, look left and right, wait until all cars have passed and move only when the road is completely clear.

The new law seems to be a shock to, who are alarmed that the drivers of Poland will need to become “responsible to stop” and assert that this change “turns upside down everything we know”.


Country Right of way

Right of way

Near the curb and showing intent
Right of way

Near the curb
Poland 1/1/17
New Zealand
USA (varies by state)
Czech Republic

Ultimately, of course, it will bring excellent results. Drivers will learn that they are not the most important. It’s soft squishy pedestrians, vulnerable to drivers of large metal roadkill machines, that should be protected.

Unfortunately, Poland belongs to those countries which in terms of pedestrian safety are the worst in the EU. The threat of loss of life in on the roads is close to three times higher than in Germany, Spain, France or the UK. 400 are killed there every year, in Poland, more than 1,100 people, about 1/3 of the total fatalities. In view of these figures Poland still gets criticism from the European Commission.

The changes are revolutionary. And therefore there is a risk that in the initial period of validity of the new law there will be more tragic events.
It is true that the legislature applies to all drivers and pedestrians, but also applies to the infrastructure, spending a lot of time, but I can’t imagine that the 2016 year will not be hard work.
We cannot allow a situation where pedestrians, aware of new laws will feel too confident. It will end up really bad, if you all of a sudden, from 1 January 2017, will start to enter the lanes without looking. Must be educated as to what exactly for them means new privileges and how to use them.

..says Ryszard Fonżychowski from the Association for the improvement of road safety (Stowarzyszenia na Rzecz Poprawy Bezpieczeństwa Ruchu Drogowego).

SEE ALSO: Using mobiles while driving declines in Poland, 24 mil. złoty fines

Government institutions are -they assure us -prepared.

The first campaign will begin later this year. The following will be implemented in the second half of 2016 and at the beginning of 2017, in connection with the entry into force of the regulation in January of this year.

-Piotr Popa said online, a spokesman for the Ministry of infrastructure and development (Ministerstwo Infrastruktury i Rozwoju).

To-do list: make crossings visible

NIK’S (supreme audit office) report shows that in Poland, 30% of horizontal road signs, and hence the “zebras,” are unreadable or invisible. Many are not lit at night and pedestrians appear on them in a way that is surprising even for careful drivers.

A huge responsibility has been dropped on the road management infrastructure. Traffic lanes need to improve, crossings redecorated. You must renew the crossing and to consider together whether or not add more markings, including with other colors. Belts must be visible there, where they are not, and such places in Poland there are many.
We are expecting a year of huge work, not just the media and education, but also on the technical side.

..says Fonżychowski.

At last – right of way on a zebra crossing. Legally speaking at least, the next challenge will be for Polish drivers to obey the law.

Important! This law failed. From 2017 there is no change.
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