Driving in Poland – Part 3

February 14, 2013 in Basic Information, General, Leisure, Polish Matters, Transport, Travelling Poland

driving in poland part 3 300x200 Driving in Poland   Part 3

Picture © bzyxx – Fotolia.com

In the 3 part of the “driving in Poland” series I would like to go over the speed limits and fines which you can encounter. Also, some things need to be said about whether and how those limits are being observed by Polish drivers and what means does the Police use to catch those who don’t observe them.

trans Driving in Poland   Part 3

In Driving in Poland – Part 1 I have written about the drinking and driving regulations in Poland. Driving in Poland – Part 2 was meant to give you an overwiev on the state of Polish roads, what kind of roads you should expect when driving down here and how people behave on those roads.

Another important thing to consider when driving in Poland are the speed limits, the fines and means by which Police attempt to catch all those speeders. This is important, as with our reputation of reckless driving some of you may think that speeding will go unnoticed and that you will not be fined. This is not true, and with all the new photoradars and “super-radars” out there, there’s a good chance you may run into trouble.

The basic speed limits in Poland are:

  • In a city, village or other urban area: 50 km/h during day-time (between 5 am and 11 PM) and 60 km/h otherwise
  • Single lane roads – 90 km/h
  • Double lane roads or single lane express roads – 100 km/h
  • Double land express roads – 110 km/h
  • Highways / motorways – 140 km/h

For the definition of an express road please take a look at Part 2 of the Driving in Poland series - I explained it there. So the limits are pretty clear and not all that different from other EU states, although the limit on the highways is pretty generous. However, nothing to be too happy about as there are very few highways to take advantage of this.

Speeding is of course not permitted when driving in Poland. There is no tolerance, as such, for disrespecting the limits but I highly doubt that the Police would stop someone going 10 km/h faster than allowed, especially that the fine is quite small. Also I think the photoradars are not set exactly on the spot because if they were, I’d probably spend the rest of my life paying off speeding tickets. So you don’t have to be too religious about those, but if you overdo it you will may be caught.

Here are the fines for speeding – they depend on how much excess speed you had when you got caught. The Polish people also get penalty points, but they’re not attributed to foreign citizens.

I have provided the fines in the Polish currency (PLN) and did some rouch estimation in Euros, US Dollars and British Pounds. The exchange rates change of course, but those values will be roughly exact for some time to come, I think (unless they change the law for driving in Poland, which may happen in the no-so-distant future). So here we go:

  • 0 – 10 km/h – up to 50 PLN (approx. 12 Euro / 15 USD / 10 GBP)
  • 11 – 20 km/h – 50 – 100 PLN (approx. up to 24 Euro / 30 USD / 20 GBP)
  • 21 – 30 km/h – 100 – 200 PLN (approx. up to 48 Euro / 60 USD / 40 GBP)
  • 31 – 40 km/h – 200 – 300 PLN (approx. up to 72 Euro / 90 USD / 60 GBP)
  • 41 – 50 km/h – 300 – 400 PLN (approx. up to 96 Euro / 120 USD / 80 GBP)
  • over 51 km/h – 400 – 500 PLN (approx. up to 120 Euro / 150 USD / 100 GBP)

This may not be very high fines for foreigners, but they’re high enough for us Poles especially considering that driving in Poland at an allowed speed of 90 km/h almost never ensures that you will actually travel 90 km within one hour. From the list above you may get the impression that, as long as you’re OK with a 120 Euro fine, you can speed along as fast as you can because the fines don’t increase anymore. However, be careful – the fine is for excessive speed only. But if you really overdo it and get caught the Police can charge you with reckless driving or posing a threat to human lives in which case not only the fine will increase, but also you may get arrested. So this is why the fines stop at 50 km/h.

One thing you need to know – when the Police stops a foreigner and issues a ticket, they are required to collect money from you straight away in Polish currency. This is not an attempt of them to get a bribe - that’s how the law works down here. We Poles get credit tickets and need to pay them within 7 days. But you can’t. And if you don’t have any cash they will drive with you to the next ATM machine. If you claim you have nothing in your bank account you probably end up arrested. Of course, when they take the cash from you, you will need to get a ticket from them. If they don’t want to give you one – make a mess out of it!

Driving in Poland is sometimes a hassle, people don’t like the Police and probably neither would you. But there’s one common misperception I need to clear with you – many foreigners somehow assume that because Poland is an old east block country, bribing the Police is normal and expected. No it is not! This may be the case in some other countries, but not in Poland. Do not, ever, try to bribe the Police officers. In the best case scenario you will really make the mad, in the worst – you will get arrested and it will be a mess. Polish Police Officers do not take bribes and even if an odd exception occurs sometimes it is not worth the risk. They will loose their job if they take one, they will be scared that you will report on them as soon as you bribe them and many of them have also CCTV or voice recorders in their cars to prevent that exact situation. So don’t bribe – the fines are small as it is.

Last thing to be considered – how do they catch you? There are really 4 main ways:

  • Regular Police patrols with handheld radars – they will generally hide somewhere in the bushes or another place fairly difficult to see from the road and measure your speed. Generally, they tend to be present when you come from a regular road (speed limit 90, most people go about 100) into town (all of the sudden the speed limit is 50 and you get a 500 PLN fine if you didn’t slow down enough)
  • Unmarked police cars with front and rear cameras and radars. They will generally drive behind you (although it may also in front of you) and take a video of the way you drive. They stop you after a few minutes, show you the video with the recorded speed and that’s it. They use a variety of cars, but often they are Volksvagen Passat and Opel (Vauxhall) Vectra or Insignia. No marks, no branding, you won’t see them coming until it’s too late. You can meet them both on rural roads and in cities. They make driving in Poland so much more exciting!
  • Regular photoradars – those are most often gray (sometimes yellow) boxes which look exactly like what they are. You will find plenty of those when driving in Poland, especially away from big cities but in very, very many small towns and villages or other places where the speed limit is reduced for whatever reason. You can find a decent map with all (or almost all) photoradars in Poland here. There’s quite a few of the, isn’t there?
  • Super-radars – that’s a new gadget from the law enforcers and for now it can only be met in bigger cities like Warsaw or Gdansk (I don’t know about the other ones). It’s a big yellow box, generally placed at a busy intersection or another busy road. It takes pictures on up to three lanes (no more hiding behind a truck!) and penalizes not only for speed, but also for running the red light and staying in the intersection when the lights change (especially annoying during really heavy traffic when you made the wrong call and are stuck in the middle after the light has changed red). By the way – you will get the fine even though you’re from abroad.

I meant to add a few things on how people actually respect the speed limits when driving in Poland, but I will leave this for a later post as this one has become pretty long. If you have any questions please ask below through comments or send me a message!