If you plan on driving in Poland, you need to make sure you have a proper driving license and are familiar with the rules of the road.
Eligibility to drive
In order to drive in Poland one must hold a valid EU driving license, a driving license issued by Polish authorities, or any internationally accepted equivalent (such as an International Driver’s Permit from the United States, for example) which is only valid for six months from the date you enter Poland.
Here are some important points to bear in mind when driving in Poland:
- The direction of the traffic is on the right-hand side of the road.
- When overtaking you must be in the left lane and must be using your indicators.
- Buses have right of way when leaving a bus stop.
- Streets specifically for the use of coaches or taxis are common and clearly marked.
- Roundabouts are mainly coordinated by policemen and their instructions must be followed precisely.
- The use of hand-held mobile devices is strictly prohibited by law.
- Seatbelts must be worn at all times by all passengers in both the front and back seats.
- Children under 12 must be in special seats attached to the back seats of the car.
- The legal alcohol limit for drivers is very low at just 0.02 milligrams.
- If you are at a red stop light and there is a green arrow pointing to the right, you are permitted to turn right but you must always give pedestrians right of way.
- Most parking areas are pay and display zones which means you must purchase your ticket and display it clearly for authorities to see.
Speed limits are strict in Poland and clearly marked on the roads; however, if there are no clear signs, you should already know what the limit is in order to avoid hefty fines.
- Within urban areas between 5am and 11pm: 50 km/h
- Within urban areas between 11pm and 5am: 60 km/h
- Outside urban areas: 90 km/h
- Dual carriageways: 100/110 km/h
- Motorways: 130 km/h
Traffic offences and fines
The most common traffic offenses in Poland are: expired licenses, breaking the speed limit, not wearing seat belts, having children under 12 sitting in the front, alcohol levels over 0.02 and using a hand-held mobile device while driving.
Headlights must be used at all times, throughout the year. Every vehicle in Poland must have a fire extinguisher on board; should you be stopped by the police and found without one, you will receive a fine. If you are driving with an alcohol level higher than the permitted level, you will be issued a fine. Again, should your level exceed 0.05, a jail sentence is likely.
Fines are issued on the spot and, while Polish nationals are given a 7 day period in which to pay the fine, as a foreigner, you are expected to pay the fine there and then. Make sure you receive a receipt from the official. Speeding fines usually range between 50 to 500 PLN.
If you are involved in an accident, you must stay at the scene, call the police and wait for their arrival. Should there be any injured victims, you must also call an ambulance. The emergency number in Poland is 122.
Drivers involved in accidents are expected to provide the victims with first aid until the arrival of paramedics. You are not allowed to flee the scene. It is recommended to have private insurance and to call them to the scene should you be involved in an accident.
Poland has one of the highest rates of traffic accidents in Europe, so be very careful, especially in intersections and roundabouts. Trams and buses have right of way and unguarded rail crossings can be dangerous.
Pedestrians and cyclists are required to wear reflective items at all times throughout the day to avoid accidents. If you are involved in an accident with someone who was wearing a reflective item, you will be fully to blame. However, should the pedestrian or cyclist to be found without one, they could be liable for the accident. This will be decided by the police upon arrival.