Driving in Poland – Part 1

January 23, 2013 in Basic Information, Leisure, Transport

driving in poland part 1 300x200 Driving in Poland   Part 1

Picture © Andy Dean – Fotolia.com

As much as I love Poland, there will be times when I have to complain or warn you from certain issues. Unfortunatelly, driving in Poland is one of them and I will have to write at least a few posts on the subject as there are many, many things which require consideration. 

Personally, I really like driving. I drive a lot, both in Warsaw and all around Poland. This is why a lot of things piss me off even more, and the way our government, both local and national, is dealing with them is beyond any human perception capability …

I’ll start this thread of posts with an issue that seems to interest people the most  - drunk driving. Now before we begin let’s get one thing straight – in my opinion it is never OK to sit behind the wheel while under the influence. Period. But then there is the law and the subjective perspective of what is considered drunk and not-drunk.

While driving in Poland you will be subject to a, pretty much, zero tolerance for drinking and driving. The Polish law distinguishes two states of alcohol intoxication:

  • State after the consumption of alcohol (in Polish: “stan po użyciu alkoholu”) which is considered to be when the alcohol level in your blood is between 0,2 and 0,5 promille (a term very rarely used in the English language – 1 promille means 100mg of alcohol per 1 dL of blood) 
  • State of alcohol intoxication (in Polish: “stan nietrzeźwości”) when the alcohol level is above 0,5 promille.

What do those limits mean in practice? Of course, the way your body reacts to alcohol is depending on you in general, on your alcohol metabolism, your body mass, whether you are rested or tired, whether you have eaten, etc. However, to be on the safe side, from a mathematical perspective you will reach the 0,2 promille level after:

  • 0,5 hours after drinking a large Polish beer (0,5L at 5,6% volume)
  • 0,5 hours after drinking a glass of wine (250 ml at 11% volume)
  • almost immediately after drinking two shots of vodka (100 ml at 40% volume)

On the other hand, you would reach the 0,5 promille level after:

  • 0,5 hours after finishing your second Polish beer (1 L at 5,6% volume)
  • 0,5 hours after finishing your second glass of wine (500 ml at 11% volume) – please note that this is about two thirds of a bottle
  • 0,5 hours after having three shots of vodka (150 ml at 40% volume)

WARNING: Please be aware that those calculations are for reference only. I did them through a Polish service http://www.ilemogewypic.pl/alkomat.php and the actual levels will vary (sometimes a lot!) with your actual physical and metal state.

Now why do I talk about those two particular levels? Because:

  • Driving in Poland is completely legal only if your sober which means you have less that 0,2 promille of alcohol in your blood
  • Driving in Poland while having an alcohol level of between 0,2 and 0,5 promille is an offence. When you are stopped by the police or become involved in a car accident (even if it was not your fault) you will be fined, you may have your driver’s licence revoked and your car will be towed unless you have someone else, sober, who could drive.
  • Driving in Poland while having an alcohol level of 0,5 promille or above is a crime! If your are caught doing that, you will go to a trial and may be sentenced to 2 years in prison, a large fine and revocation of your licence. This is when you just get caught. In the worst case scenario, if you cause an accident and kill someone your may face up to 12 years of jail time!

And one last word about the legal issue – they are being very serious about it. Do not underestimate the way the police work in Poland, especially when it comes to drunk driving. If you’re caught at 0,51 – you will be trialed. And it’s not fun.

Please continue on next page …

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