Britain 10:0 Poland, yet Polish Drivers Winning

DISCLAIMER: This post is short. But it has a PS.

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Few facts first:

  1. Poles were franchised their worst driver in Britain.
  2. Britain’s worst driving learners are shown in many parts (first here).
  3. Poles are not on the World’s Top 10 Worst Drivers list made by Brits.

To hell with them. (The facts.) Polish drivers (or, drivers in Poland, thus including – yes! – foreigners) have been found guilty of many things:

  • They don’t give a misspellt piece of cutlery (was it “fork“?).
  • They make people write about rutting up real nice.
  • They drive as if they didn’t drink. Not as expected. Or they drink and then drive as if they did? (Eh, what?)
  • They occupy more space here than Doda does.

Their principal offence is that they drive at all. Even though they cannot. (A paradox, eh? Thank you for the third conditional: “If God had wanted the Poles to act like dickheads he would have given them cars”.)

The simplest way to explain why Polish drivers suck is to suspect: some hereditary affliction. (Mark: not every inheriting is Darwinian.) The end.

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on what little differences underlie the fact that the Polish and UK ways of driver-making (and, subsequently, of driving) are different. I’ll show how much (money, time or both) it takes to allegedly suck, Polish style. Contrasting prices, I follow 2007 Britain’s 19.863 EUR purchasing power per head (steady) against Poland’s 4.808 EUR (faller), and so use the 4-to-1 price conversion. And I translate 1 British pound into 4.25 Polish złoty. (The translation could be more faithful but less beautiful. Let’s wait till 1 pound falls to 4 złoty.)


In order to drive one has to be of age (a nuisance taken care of by Nature) and then to:

  1. learn theory of driving
  2. learn practical driving
  3. pass theoretical exams
  4. pass practical tests
  5. get driving license
  6. get a car
  7. get car insurance
  8. get fuel
  9. get a road
  10. (for)get the Code
  11. get a life

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In Poland (location: the sticks, time: 20 months ago) the price for a driving course was 1000 zł. Competitors downtown asked for 1200 zł. Prices of fuel rising, I should not expect the price to have dropped since then, especially outside hamlets. Standard course includes 30 hours of preaching and 30 hours of driving. A lesson of theory often turns out to last a ‘teaching hour’ (45 mins). Even when it is full 60 mins long, students are charged individually but drink the wisdom from the teacher’s mouth collectively. And what wisdom? There is nothing students could not learn by themselves. A sheer blatant rip-off, I say. But try to get a course without theory!

Britain is reasonable: Learn theory yourself. (Costs of teaching aids are cheap enough to be negligible.)

Score so far: Poland 0 — Britain: 1.

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A lesson of practical driving takes 60 minutes alright. Although it may include the time to get from teaching centre to student – and back. Also, you may have additional would-be driver (or drivers) in your back seat. If you are trained in a city – well, you face city situations, which may mean little more than practising 1-2-1 gear shifts in a street jam.

Britain is more reasonable (again). One hour of driving costs 15–30 GBP, depending on how (re)commendable your driving instructor is. It gets even cheaper when you drive your own car (furnished with proper markings got easily from your local store). Driving your own car for practicing purposes in Poland is (nigh-) impossible. [And I know just one benefit of driving a car that’s not yours – you can bump hard, like a Polish ladette youtubed here.]

30 hours of practise are the shortest period thought enough to construct another Polish driver. So, every hour of the total of 30 is sold for ~40 zł (as I take it the theoretical part is a rip off). 40 zł is an average price for any extra lessons as well. It means driving education is more expensive in Poland than in Britain.

What is practical about the UK approach is that as you drive your own car – you know what you drive and what your buttons do. In Poland you may learn aboard Chevy Aveo, make maneuvers in Opel Corsa and do the ultimate test drive in Toyota interiors. If you think variety is the spice of drive, go rethinking until you change your mind. Poles have to memorize where different cars’ lights, controls, switches, fluids are. And if on the T(est)-day you should not know all the numbers of the Is-It-Fiat Punto?-Game — then, bingo! — you’re out.

Besides: Long live the stick!

Ride the funky Manual: why auto-ugly ***us, have hands on ***us!

But In Germany, so I learned, should you have problems doing shifts – you are likely to be encouraged to go for automatically geared vehicle. In Poland not too far ago it was impossible – and still is darn hard – to find a school with such vehicles. The manual gearbox will be usually referred to as “regular” or “normal”, the automatic perversion reserved for the handicapped or the crazy (read: Americans). Having quoted certain EU regulations granting the freedom to drive the automatic way, I was frustrated by the testing authorities: since you are so obstinately European, please learn driving (not using public roads), have your instructor confirm you can drive, furnish your automatic car with cameras and secondary pedals on the passenger side for testing purposes, then transport yourself and your car to our testing ground (not using public roads), where you can exercise your right to pass the test. — Hmm, was it Catch 22 or more?

I also lament a memory of a girl, preparing for her test no. 2 or 5, one large lid faking the wheel, 3 more pot lids handles-down on the ground faking the 3 pedals, a long ruler stick in a flowerpot faking the box, who’s sitting on a stool and sobbing every time she could not get cooking with gas. Yes, I know the manual gear is predominant in the UK – but the British way toward the auto-box seems not obstructed.

[No wonder some less stress-resistant persons choose to drive scooters instead of cars. With engine capacity below 50 ccm, top speed 45 kph, some (barely) legal DIY mods to get more speed, you need no driving license to vroom this baby on, a chopper king(ette).]

Whether there are major differences in what prospective drivers learn here and there, I am not qualified to assess. (Apart from knowing the obvious peculiarity that the Commonwealth — though with no history of samurais — had chosen the left hand traffic instead of driving just right.) One of few things that struck me was how to steer the wheel. Names of the methods can be stimulating: make me think of acrobatics (“hand over hand”), maternity ward door (“push-pull”), card shark’s CV (“shuffle steering”) or more. There is less wheel and deal about it in Poland. I was told to use the “10 to 2” or (less advisably) the “15 to 3” grip for the exam – and catch as catch can otherwhens.

Score so far: Poland 0 — Britain: 2.

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UK theory test fee is 30 GBP.

In Poland, after obligatory medical check up (usually against 50 zł) and after the course, of course, you can get your knowledge tested for 22 zł. It may seem it comes 1/3 cheaper than in the UK – but wait with that conclusion!

A pass on theory test holds valid for 6 months in Poland. Given this span, you may not have a chance to book more than 2-3 retakes. Due to long intervals between one exam and another, it is common for the Polish would-be driver to pay for both theory and practice tests. (Better poorer than sorry.)

When you fail the theoretical part, you can’t proceed to the practical part. Which is understandable. When you fail the theoretical part, you are refunded only half of the practical part fee. Which is Polish.

In Britain, things look just heavenly. “Book your test online” “Booking by phone” “Payment by postal order” “Reschedule without loss of fee” “Download application” — such slogans sound too good to be Polish, even translated. The UK postal application form (downloadable here) reads “You must wait at least 10 working days between appointments for the same category of test”. Ten days, huh? You count that Polish break in weeks!

(The American way of life shows up even sweeter: “He took the test Wednesday and didn’t pass. He failed it again Thursday, but determined and more confident, asked to retake it immediately.”)

The Polish examinee has to know answers for 490 multiple-choice questions. Out of these 18 are picked at random and onto the computer screen. The examinee has to answer 16-18 questions correctly. Min. accuracy is 88% then.

Some questions are impracticable, irrelevant, unrealistic.

  • What kind of paperwork should you do when selling your vehicle to a new owner? (But you haven’t bought any yet!)
  • Will you massage the heart of an infant victim with 2 fingers, 3 fingers or 5 fingers? (Note: more than one correct answer may apply, though not necessarily.)
  • Speaking of fingers. You find one torn away from a victim at the scene of the accident. How do you ensure it remains in resewable condition?
  • In a residential area, can your tractor overtake a biker? (But you’ve got a craving for a roadster!)

Then, there are questions about the physics of the vehicle stopping on wet, iced up or dry surfaces. You are not allowed to use any calculating machinery — as you are not supposed to calculate – rather to remember some weird numbers by heart. For about as long as it takes you to leave the test centre successfully. In wheel-life situations, a 90 kph fast car driver could not judge whether that deer hopped out 40 or 45 meters away. And even if one could, what difference would it make?

Having taken a few mock tests online, I know the Isles are not free from questions that mock human reason. But I think there are fewer of them, and the British theory test consists of two parts:

  • Multiple choice theory test (Just like the Polish thing. But they tell you how many correct answers are possible?)
  • Hazard perception test (A beauty! Alas, Poland did not import the idea.) Quote: “You’ll be presented with a series of 14 video clips which feature every day road scenes. In each clip there’ll be at least one developing hazard, but one of the clips will feature two developing hazards. To achieve a high score you’ll need to respond to the developing hazard during the early part of its development. The maximum you can score on each hazard is five. You won’t be able to review your answers to the hazard perception test; as on the road, you’ll only have one chance to respond to the developing hazard.)

The pass mark for the first is 43 out of 50 questions. (Min. accuracy: 86%.) The pass mark for the latter is score min. 44 out of 75. (Min. accuracy: 58,(6)%.)

Score so far: Poland 0 — Britain: 3.

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UK practical test fee is 56.50 GBP. Polish fee is twice as much, 112 PLN.

The practical test in Poland is divided into 3 parts popularly called:

  • the car (a place where you play bingo and perform safety checks)
  • the yard (a place where you do obligatory manoeuvres)
  • the city (a place where you do the driving and some more manoeuvres)

The “car” part is when you have to show you are well versed in your car’s design (although this is not really your car – it is just your testing centre’s car – whereas your really your car – with really your lights, buttons, stick, dipstick and lipstick – is way elsewhere).

The “yard” means two obligatory maneuvers [click here to see them]:
1) driving / reversing round a curved corner (jazda po łuku)
2) hill start (ruszanie na wzniesieniu)

  1. Rounding a bend can be round-the-bend-sending fun. (Nearly as funny as, say, Future Perfect Continuous in English. By my next incarnation I’ll have not been speaking to a native speaker who should ever use the tense but it’s fun to know it’s there.) Especially the go-back part, neither used in parking nor in actual driving, in fact, reverse bends being forbidden in many road situations, is fun. How should it not be fun when people are so concentrated on timing their making 1 and 1/3 wheelturn right while their mirror passes the line of the middle post’s shadow or something. (Provided it’s aboard toyota, in fiats they may have to do two wheelturns. Or the other bend round.) No instinct involved here. No “feel the Force” approach. As no post can be grazed. No tyre’s edge may contact but the outer edge of any koperta‘s borderline. Koperta is often at a slope, so don’t forget to apply the hand brake, or you’re out. (Btw, the word means ‘envelope’, and is the name of that starting / finish rectangle that looks like, well, an envelope. The same word is used colloquially to mean the much feared parallel / reverse parking. The same word is used to mean the envelope containing pecuniary incentive for the instructor’s eye to turn blind. A short film about koperta, in Polish, here.) Waiting round the bend, my huckleberry friend, awaits Maneuver #2:
  2. Hill start – to test whether you know how to release the hand brake of your uphill-pointing car. There are two groups of drivers, I gather: juniors, with the reflex to pull the hand brake every time they stop regardless of the road surface gradient yet fresh – and seniors, with feet on their brake pedals, looking down on the hand thing.
  3. Apart from the two, there can be more maneuvers – notably parking combos, three point turning fun – but demanded in city conditions. I heard emergency stop could be required but never met anyone who had to.

In the UK there is no doctor’s checkup: the examinee is deemed fit if fit enough to read (or write down) some plate numbers and not smelling booze.

[A joke in passing.

A Polish immigrant wants to apply for a driver’s license. First he has to take an eye-sight test. The optician shows him a card with the letters — C Z W I X N O S T A C Z.
— “Can you read this?” the optician asks.
— “Read it?” the Polish guy replies, “I know the guy!”

Vehicle safety questions may be asked. There are the following maneuvers, (1) reverse parking, (2) turning back on a street, (3) reverse turning into a street, and – not necessarily – (4) emergency stop. All to be performed in real-drive conditions. (Again, a praiseworthy idea.) Just when I would begin to believe the realities in the two lands were more or less comparable, I saw the video, part 1, and part 2, and part 3, of one actual driving test.

“Pat was successful in passing her test with 15 minor errors”

FIF-freakin-TEEN errors?!

Now, give me a (hand) break! Let aside the fact I could count many more there (if only the lady were to drive in Poland) – FIFTEEN is just pure bliss! In Poland you cannot make so many. Not ten, not eight, not six. Indeed, there can be fewer errors than in baseball. It’s as simple as “one strike – two strikes – you’re out”!

And whether a disqualifying error is ‘minor’ or ‘major’ can be fuel for complaints at pro failers’ fora:

  • I forgot to honk before the drive, thus failing to check the efficiency of a major car system.
  • I honked before the drive, but I was not supposed, abusing the honk is a major bad. I should have asked the instructor’s permission to honk first.
  • I asked my instructor whether it’s okay to honk before the drive and he said “if you don’t know a major thing like that, you’re not going anywhere”.
  • Another road user honked near me (and it did not matter that it was a honk by accident or not at me)
  • I forgot to check the headrest.
  • I forgot to fasten the seat belt.
  • I didn’t have to fasten the seat belt, for I was pregnant, but forgot to inform the instructor thereof.
  • I didn’t know the regulation under which my instructor was supposed to fasten the seat belt too (or not).
  • “You damn 20 years old engine, don’t you dare die on me!”….It died twice, it’s over.
  • I forgot to adjust a rear mirror before starting the engine.
  • I switched on the dipper before starting the engine.
  • I did not assess properly was my tyre tread deep enough.
  • I was driving too ‘dynamically’, whatever this should mean.
  • I was driving not ‘dynamically’, whatever this should mean.
  • I should have foreseen a tipsy prankster, pole vault champion, who triple jumped on my bonnet from behind the wayside bushes, but I didn’t.
  • I misjudged the situation: I didn’t stop at the zebra: that pedestrian scratched his head, clearly indicating the direct intention to cross the street.
  • I misjudged the situation: I stopped at the zebra: that pedestrian shuffled his foot, clearly indicating he’s not about to cross the street, it was just an itching toe or an ant in his sandal.
  • Some driver saw the words “exam ride” on my car and felt sorry for me and gestured “go first” with a smile, and so I went and the instructor said I violated the right of way.
  • Some driver saw the words “exam ride” on my car and felt sorry for me and gestured “go first” with a smile, and I didn’t, because I was to yield the right of way, and the instructor said I violated the right of polite driving.

Polish reality barks and bites even more cruelly than the thing with that Bournemouth taxi driver who didn’t learn his apostrophes. English is easy (and Future Perfect Continuous is fun) and defined, whereas Polish instructors’ whims can’t be predicted, so can’t be indulged. Not to mention a difference between a driver and a cabsman.

The Polish would-be driver is next to the mine-removing sapper (who can be wrong just once). No wonder Poles get hysterical, their hands shake, their brains shake, they regard driving tests as harder than any A-Levels, and they secretly discuss which benzodiazepines dumb you enough against cruel cruel world while not put all of your eyes and ears to sleep. (Me, I was wearing my lucky sneakers upon January snow. Further, my lack of faith made me buy additional hours of driving before I even took my first test.)

When you pass “the car” part and you pass “the yard” part but you fail “the city” part, your next exam will include the 3 parts again. It does not matter if you fail in minute 1 or 31 of the exam. It hardly helps there are cameras to make a movie of your driving. Who would appeal against a negative ruling of the testing centre when one needs to retake the exam in the centre again? In obvious cases of instructor’s spite, records may simply be found lost (oh, is there a law forbidding a camera to have a malfunction?), and without such records the only thing examinees can be entitled to is repeating their exams at no additional cost.

With cameras in cars, European laws flying around and all that jazz, Polish examiners have grown cultured, suited and tied, no doubt, but still are at best severely principled like Mr Howard Webb, “brave enough to” put a wry on the face and “say, Enough is enough.”. No way could they be unnecessarily reassuring or too empathic. Never cordial. Providing tips or just Oriental wisdom may work in Beverly Hills, in the UK perhaps, but not in Poland. I have got the impression that the examinee in the UK is a human fellow citizen and their Polish counterpart does not even rank as a customer. (The customer is always right, the examinee is not, so.)

So, there come Polish RETAKES. Paid fully upfront. And again. And again. And again. There can be little consolation in that the 13th attempt is sponsored by your driving teacher. Urban legends have it there are Poles who don’t give up past a scoreful of attempts and going. Personally, I know a lady who made it on seventh go. She spent as much money on getting her license as she would have on some used car. The official stats seldom specify more than how many examinees fail ‘the yard’ (20%) or how many pass at first go (some 30%). I would expect the mean figure to be 3-5 attempts away from the ultimate success.

Score so far: Poland 0 — Britain: 4.

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Poland: After the practical test passed, the testing centre has 3 days to pass relevant documents to the license printing / processing unit. (Everyone with access to the net can see online about printers’ work in progress.) From there a document is sent to a relevant city / town office’s Department of Transport. (Allow for postal service.) Altogether, it is hardly possible to receive your license in less than a week. The usual time is 2-3 weeks, some less lucky people may wait 4-5 weeks (or more, whenever the document gets lost somewhere in the process). The maximum period under the administrative regulations is 30 days. Good news: you have the right to remain smiling (for your document’s photo). Bad news: you have to pay for the photo. And then for the document: 75-80 zł (the more enclosures should be required the more expensive it gets). And it can be queueful at the office.

Britain: Once the practical test is successfully over, you will be given a certificate to prove you passed. (A nice thing, not so obvious in Poland.) You will find your driving license in your post within four weeks past your passing.

Score so far: Poland 0 — Britain: 5.

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This is a Polish car

Now, as we have the document, we can start looking for a car. — And are cars in Poland expensive?

Four years ago, it was found out that Polish cars were cheapest in EU. “The report concluded that Fiat Pandas sold in Poland were the cheapest cars across the EU.” (Oops! Were the EU ‘reporters’ looking for any cheapest brand that just happened to be manufactured in Poland?) Anyway, it’s 2008 toyear.

You are a new driver and you want a new car. (How else?)

A new Fiat Panda, 100HP 1.4 16V, nice Pasodoble Red colour, with ESP and roof bars added sells for: 51.690 PLN in Poland. The same configuration in Britain calls for 11.105 GBP. (And x 4,25 = 47.200 PLN).

Or let’s get a look at something else:

More specifically:

Opel Corsa of 2008, 5 door hatch, 5-gear manual box and 1.4 engine 90KM, Cosmo (read: air-conditioning), solid yellow (sunny melon) colour, CD-60 radio-CD–sat-nav. Polish price: 59.250 PLN.

[You say potato, I say potatah. I say Opel, you say Foksal.]

Vauxhall Corsa Club a/c 1.4i 16V, w/ the same accessories. British price: 12.490 GBP. (x 4,25 = 53.080 PLN)

Adieu, Polish cheapness.

Score so far: Poland 0 — Britain: 6.

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Did I forget to mention that the price for British Vauxall above was RPP including, inter alia, “12 months’ Government Vehicle Excise Duty and the DVLA new vehicle first registration fee of £55.00”? Yes, your British car is already insured and you’re so laid back.

In Poland — let’s go alphabetic — AXA checked out as your prospective online car insurer:

You are a man, a student, born 1982, no kids, no experience, freshly licensed sole driver, parking your privately owned Opel in the streets of Warsaw (zip code 00-116, is it Żoliborz enough?). You don’t have money for having your car garaged. You have not installed any safeties yet. There are 2 car keys in your hand’s possession. You want to get your OC (general civil liability insurance) – one compulsory to have, and have it started a month after you grabbed your DL.

AXA says: 2197 PLN. [517 GBP]

And now you are a woman, born 1982, too, but who managed to CV-ize yourself out better and got some beginner’s office job somewhere at, say ulica Zlota in Warsaw (zip code 00-120). Smart enough, you have your boss agreed on putting you car into company’s shared garage for nights. At times you let your BF (see above) drive your car. Better safe than sorry: you installed some basic safeties — and you decide on OC+AC package.

AXA says: 3431 PLN. [807 GBP]


  • Kids, get married. Or otherwise have joint ownership of a vehicle. When you are a car co-owner, then even when you don’t have DL, your driving record to negotiate lower insurance premiums in the future grows with each passing year.
  • Kids, don’t get married. Or don’t get into a car accident. At least — not together. See this pdf how Polish Supreme Court did not care in 2006 about situations when a married couple gets into their car – and their car gets into an accident – and the spouse on the passenger seat does not get a dime out of their car insurance policy.
  • More British thoughts about Polish car insurance went over there.

Score so far: Poland 0 — Britain: 7.

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“Fill ‘er up”, all the catchy phrases, all the American dream, the American tanks and tankers, self-proclaimed American assholes saying “I’m gonna drive around in that baby at 115 miles per hour, getting one mile per gallon”, American zombies who want “400 horsepower of maximum performance piercing the night”, naked ladies who “drove all night”, or got their kicks, “more than 2000 miles all the way” – they are just not us / for us, the people this side of the Gas Wars.

Excise duties? Bring ’em on! (It would take another post to say why Polish govt should not lower the rate.) Fuel prices may change daily, but let’s say (read) the price for 1 litre of gasoline is about 4.45 PLN in Poland and some 1.18 GBP in Britain.

The average monthly salary in Poland (source: GUS, April 2008) is 3137,74 zł gross. Of which 2230 zł netted in hand. Or some 500 litres in the fuel tank.

The mean weekly pay in UK was 452 GBP gross (source: ONS, all jobs ASHE) in 2007. The monthly gross would be 1808 GBP — netting to 1480 GBP cash in hand. Meaning: 1250 litres in the fuel tank. Or more, considering 2007-2008 changes.

Simply put: Polish petrol is effectively 2.5 times more expensive than British.

Score so far: Poland 0 — Britain: 8.

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Some basic figures and facts about the road systems in Britain and Poland for a start.

British roads are fine. Started by the Roman Empire, they continued till the mid-90s – when the road network was found “broadly complete“. So, don’t believe any hostile propaganda.

Would anyone believe British motorists were being “hit from all sides with record fuel prices, record motoring tax levels and record congestion”?


High fuel taxes paid by UK drivers are a myth. Prices given without context are invalid. — Heavy-rated or not, fuel taxes help building roads.

Roads – if they are to be many, long, wide, with infrastructure, not through living rooms of some poor folk but at a distance – need to go through areas that usually come in green on our maps. While Americans don’t care about greenhouses in Kyoto, they have roads. While there were forests and aurochs in Scotland, there are British roads. While there are forests and wisents in Poland, Polish roads (pothole-to-road index low) are scarce.

Apart from blatant eco-absurdities (“which are greener: pigs or cars?”), there are some climatic spokes put in Polish car wheels. If you can spot any would-be motorway in your vicinity, inquire if it is being built of concrete or of asphalt / tarmac. The first is allegedly noisier and uglier. (And why only a handful of Google .uk hits for “concrete motorways”?) The latter’s yearly temperature variation is 70-80 degrees centigrade – so the road either melts in summer or cracks in winter.

Given the context of time pressure, demand / supply: Both are damn expensive.

So yes, it’s money again.

Score so far: Poland 0 — Britain: 9.

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There is something in the names already.

The English is the Highway Code. The Polish is the Road Traffic Act. I can feel the difference, it’s not too subliminal.

There is that local road I take going to my work and fro. The speed limit is 30 kph there. The road is broad. It is broad and deep. It has more potholes and holes and grooves and humps than it has itself. (Years of exploitation to blame, trucks hungry for coal, underground subversion by mining industry, whatever.) The road is steep. There is no way to go down on it within the speed limit other than including pedalling the brake every now and now. Locals know how to zigzag there, yield, even change lanes (yes, left-hand driving will surprise only strangers there).

If, having adhered to a speed limit, you were to damage your car – landed in a hole, you could document your fall with photos, call the police and claim damages from given road administration. My local treasury is quite empty, however. Hence the speed limit. No one should break anything going 30 kph, authorities think, so damages can’t be claimed. It makes sense only if you concede civil servant’s primary task is to shrug their shoulders, and the key feature of a road is holes galore, and the mining company can have coalface under your house but the headquarters (so, the source of taxation) two cities away. If you accept the truth that – save the red triangle, fire extinguisher, spare tyre, first-aid kit – a camera is indispensable for your car’s (or your wallet’s) safety. (Note: You may break a wheel got into a manhole stolen its cover by compulsive metal scrap collectors, the hole covered with some cardboard for the sake of aesthetics. Your damage may vary. You do need a camera.)

The worst part is things one hears make sense:

  • It makes sense not to tailgate. (But in Poland it makes sense to tailgate, actually.)
  • It makes sense to protect natural environment. (But why did the already deforested and industrialised part of Europe not practise what they will preach to Poland today?)
  • It makes sense to build roads. (But why with the house building sector blooming too? And India and China hungry for materials?)
  • It makes sense to economise on fuel. (But why now, when you finally can have your first SUV after all those decades in grey poverty?)
  • The proverb makes sense: Road wasn’t built in a day. (But if “no-roadness” is only provisional, where have all the road taxes gone? What about the other saying, about le provisoire qui dure?)

Should Poland wait until everything gets “normal”? How long?

Haven’t we read our Keynes?

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Getting less (bureaucracy excluded) though paying more than Britons, getting through the ordeals of life, getting licensed, getting motorized — car being the poor man’s substitute for prosperity at its peak — with a long tradition of roadholes – and paying for them — with less money left, hence less free time, time needed to earn money to pay for lack of it:

Poles hurry.

They hurry a lot, having a Socialism to overtake and a Capitalism to catch up with. Cases of plain stupidity and arrogance aside (which are pandemic), Poles simply have neither a generation nor a second to lose. Not even for love, not now. Handicapped (Poland 0-10 Britain), with work to do. Given jobs they often dislike or just hate. Against all Odd’s factors. They worked more than Britons in 2003. And more in 2004. They work more at home as they do in Britain. Money counts. Speed helps. And road politeness? It means neither carrots nor sticks yet.

Out of breath – and into it – in passing, Poles see stupid laws they don’t know how to abide by. For instance — they see road signs. No, not those. These:


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“Ruch wachadłowy” is as correct in Polish as “Signal Internet Lame Traffic” would be in English (but to mean “Single Alternate Lane Traffic”). The correct speeling is WAHADŁOWY (“pendular”). To err is human, but this sign is plain stupid, which makes it worse than, say, Welsh bladder disease (which is intriguing) or Welsh support for lefties (which is funny).

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The same – but with the excess letter written off. (We see a different setting. It’s not an individual case then. Most probably the taxpayer had to pay for delivery of more of these blunders.)

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You remember Schrodinger’s cat, a pet simultaneously dead and alive? —Well, you can superposition your vehicle in SCHRÖDINGER’S PARK.

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Pic 11: WANT MORE?

How about five at once? And mutually exclusive?

[Want more? Following “UWAGA ABSURD” icon herefind “stulta lex sed lex” near yourself!]

The end, really.

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In making this post, I was in a hurry. I tried to be meticulous – but it is possible some facts and figures missed me.Anyone with better knowledge? Revise me! — Guests from other countries are welcome to throw in their data and stats.

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40 thoughts on “Britain 10:0 Poland, yet Polish Drivers Winning

  1. me says:

    way too long, way too long.

    Nobody will read it.

  2. scatts says:

    This does count against your Masters degree in “Brit/Pole driving” you know. It’s not just some cheap correspondence course! :-)))

    Well, apart from this part – “UK practical test fee is 56.50 GBP. Polish fee is twice as much, 112 PLN.”

  3. Michael says:

    I read it. They certainly don’t make it easy here. I’m dreading the day I need to attempt to do whatever I have to in order to switch my US driving license to a Polish one…

  4. darthsida says:

    => Me
    Enjoy the pics.

    => Michael
    Your task is easy. (Or at least it was 3 years ago, when — hunting for any chance to get DL for auto-geared-car — I would be considering a quick trip to Florida, getting a US document in two weeks, then returning to Poland for all the restamping.)

    => Scatts
    lemme play Rob Le Taxi: “You talkin’ to me?”

    56.50 GBP is ca 240 PLN (nominally), so 60 PLN (effectively, purchasing powers considered). And 112 PLN is roughly twice as much as 60 PLN.

    NPV-FV swaps, IRRs against lost opportunity costs, continuous trading crossrates, inflation derivatives and all the hedges will follow in a paper for DEcon :D

  5. Anna says:

    I see that you used the Dagen-H pic! Sweet!

    And when it comes to automatics, in Sweden there are only TWO testing centers in the whole country authorized to test on automatic transmission cars, and no, you can’t bring your own. And then your license will have a nice warning on it: “valid only for automatic transmission vehicles”. And good luck trying to rent a car then anywhere outside of Stockholm.

  6. darthsida says:


    Oh, yes, I had to use the Dagen-H picture, first it’s lovely in its own right, secondly it’s lovely to imagine how the thing would get looking in Poland :)

    As to the situation with Swedish automatics – given the populations of the countries – I would not mind the number at all – if only the centres were more in Blekinge than north of Kiruna. But perhaps you have schools with atv’s in stock? That’d be a start I could not find in Poland.

  7. DC says:

    OMG – the youtube clip in paragraph 2 is PRICELESS.

    Thanks Darth!

  8. darthsida says:

    DC, glad you made it that far :)

    By the way, the actual bump (the same instructor but another driver) is there.

  9. anglopole says:

    Oh, I’m so glad thedriving courses and learning are long behind me:) I’ll not show my husband your post, Darshida, as he’d get a heart attack and wouldn’t think about learning to drive ever again!;p
    Very good writing – well done! What do you think about the roundabout system so common in the UK? Here’s some advice on how to deal with roundabouts in the UK:
    Be not faint hearted – you get used to them in time…. ;) Here’s a sample of “England roundabout racing adventure”: :)

  10. anglopole says:

    once again the link for the “Roundabout joy ride!”

  11. darthsida says:

    Thanks, Anglopole
    I am not faint hearted but am certainly right sided. My head developed an ache just watching this.

    As to Polish roundabouts, they have two sides.

    Dark: you may fail your driving test if you do not indicate left turn (270 deg) or round turn (360 deg) before entering the roundabout.
    Bright: Size does not matter. Here’s a beautiful roundabout, close to my heart and my home of old.

  12. anglopole says:

    Oh, yes, Darshida, your roundabout is a real babe! :)))

  13. ge'ez says:

    More cowbell. More Doda.

  14. Anna says:

    schools with automatics in stock here? You surely jest. Though if you know someone who has an automatic, you can simply hire an instructor to ride with you. A few years ago pretty much anyone could be an instructor, but not anymore.
    Last year, just for fun I added all the costs involved in getting a license from scratch and doing it the budget way, without a school, and purchasing only a couple of private driving lessons. The total came to almost 800 euros. And that’s including the hateful “hazard driving test” where you’re set up with a walkie-talkie headset and drive a very ordinary car on a special obstacle course slicked in oil. Not fun at all.

  15. My Oregon (US)-issued license is good until 2013 although I really need to get a Polish-issued one. I’ve been here more than six months.

    I’m not looking forward to the theoretical test as I’ve seen how people here drive and, having lived here for three years now, how they think about cars/driving/pedestrians. I don’t know if the ridiculous questions about fingers are true or not but it wouldn’t surprise me if they were. I couldn’t possibly fathom the reasons for including such questions on a theoretical DRIVING exam. Do they ask medical students, during their exams, “Please explain, in detail, how to disassemble the transmission from a 1984 Toyota Corolla”? No? Then why are they asking medical questions on a driving exam? I don’t have any kids, either. Even if I did I don’t think I want to be massaging anyone’s heart, especially when top-notch paramedics are surely speeding towards the scene even now.

    Anyway, what can be done about all these very serious problems? Poor roads, poor driving, poor people can’t afford petrol. The solutions are simple:

    – Make the driving exams realistic and passable by a normal, average human being. Emphasize courtesy, caution and careful driving. Let people drive in the car they own or will be driving every day.

    – Pass Nordic-style traffic laws with Nordic-style punishments. Breaking the speed limit not to mention driving in a careless or reckless manner should nearly push the average person into bankruptcy. Those that can’t afford to drive poorly can either drive carefully and legally or they can take the bus.

    – Spend some of the money from the petrol/diesel tax on resurfacing roads. If there isn’t enough money to do that, tell the police to go out and start writing tickets. They won’t have to go very far or work very hard to get a LOT of money. Plus you could cut the national health care budget a bit because there will be thousands people off the roads and on the bus rather than off the roads and in hospitals.

    – Build some motorways. That’s those really big, wide roads that are straight and you get to drive fast (legally!) on them. These big roads make it quick and easy to transport goods, like petrol, across the nation. Quick and efficient shipping means lower prices.

    I doubt any of that will happen, though. The Polish sense of entitlement and understanding of democracy means that most will drive as slow or fast as they want, as careful or careless as they want and everyone else can fuck off.

    A tree jumped out at me. It was the other driver, he/she was at fault – definitely not me. The road, it was the road, it made me rear-end that guy. The speed limit was set too low, no one drives just 70 there. I wasn’t wearing a seat belt because what if I crash into a lake; I might drown. I only took my eyes off the road for a SECOND while talking on my mobile/changing the radio station/applying my makeup/yelling at my kids. I definitely, absolutely only had a few beers and I am totally ok to drive. If we get stopped, we’ll give the cop some money and a bottle of whiskey or vodka. This is a BMW/Mercedes/Audi/VW for god’s sake, of course it can do 140 through the city – it’s built for that sort of thing. The light just changed to red, it’s still ok to drive through it. Everyone illegally does U-turns there, it’s ok. That light was yellow, of course I’m going to end up rear-ending him if he actually stops for it! Yes, ok, I admit I did hit him… but that damage was already there; he’s trying to commit insurance fraud! Ohhhh, looks like we accidentally tapped that guy while getting into the parking spot …and people are looking at us… well, just write down a fake phone number and leave it on his windshield – he shouldn’t have parked that close to where I wanted to park.

    I do love living here, really, but that doesn’t mean I have to love everything about Poland or Poles. The majority drive carelessly without regard for their own lives or the lives of anyone else around them. I can only assume that their close and personal relationship with God means that they are confident they will go straight to Heaven via the windshield, bonnet and pavement. I wish I had that kind of confidence, but I don’t, so I drive twice as cautiously as I did in the US and thus have only been rear-ended once here.

  16. darthsida says:

    Brad, thx for the comment.

    Your suggestions show (implicitly) there is no perfect system. Nordic style is “Nordic” – not “global”. Or I have known American prices of gas. Or I have not seen a Greek with safety belt used. Or I have seen French disregard for road signs. Or I have known countries whose citizens legitly drink more than Poles. And so on.

    I grant myself the benefit of doubt. The numbers of fatal casualties – higher than otherwheres (in Europe) – is the unique Polish feature, yes. But reasons for this may vary and until given reliable stats to prove something else, I’ll blame it on the roads. And, of course, on the hurrying. (I’m sure not all labour safety rules were observed when Americans had to hurry – building their first scyscrapers, railway tracks, industries. Poland is not in the same point of economic development as USA or Western Europe are. Measures can’t be mimicked blindly then.)

    One of the explanations (why so many dead on the roads) is rescue time too long and first aid neglected. Your faith in “top-notch paramedics” is either sarcastic / ironic, or enviable. How to secure severed fingers (or limbs) – how to perform CPR on a baby [with its chest much smaller than adult’s] – was discussed during my theory lessons. Btw, a few days before I took for my first test, the compression-ventilation ratio got changed (though humans did not): I found it curious. Poles can’t do any CPR. That’s kinda Polish specialty too, maybe.

    Your solutions are sticks, not carrots: Punish Nordically. Encourage police to be harsher. Write tickets. — Even your ‘constructive’ tips mean more demands from the people. Building motorways [etc.] wants money. And where to have them from if not from yet more taxes? — Let me be well understood: it’s not wrong to be under heavy taxation IF there are reasons behind it. But to pay less but get nothing – hurts more. If Poles should pay even more (for nothing), then they will, well, oppose the system.

  17. Adolf says:

    Very Good, i am british living in Poland everything is true, so i bought Myself a Hummer i can go anywhere to beat the traffic, it’s safer to drive as in the summer months the roads do melt and leave 30cm gauges in the road where lorries drive. I guess the best bit of having an H2 though in -Poland is that you can get a better view of those Buraki drivers trying to commit suicide. For example normal road two lanes one each side speed limit 70KMH you look in the mirror and Buraki is weaving in and out of the cars, he comes to pass me in an H2 Lorry coming towards me on other side at around 120 Hmmm H2 450 BHP 0-60 in 5.6 ok lets play a little game lets see if Buraki is stupid enough to hit the truck head on!!!! 10 seconds later Bang oh dear :) 4 less poles to worry about

  18. ge'ez says:

    And thanks, too, for contributing to the accelation of global warming, Adolf.

  19. darthsida says:

    => Ge’ez,

    just two points about global warning:
    1. Those who believe global warning was made by humans (or at least has been largely owed to them): find “pigs or cars” link in point 9 above and enjoy your meal
    2. Those not so blindly religious — have you enjoyed any Nigel Lawson lately? Came into Dziennik last Friday? Have you had a laugh at the eco-zealots?

    => Adolf

    You call yoursuv a Hummer driver? How would you call Fiat Multipla then (it can welcome more than 6 persons aboard)? DVD-TV, heated leather seats, lots of chrome trinkets, automatic speed? Hummer without a MG atop ain’t a Hummer. Btw, you spelt Buraki wrong. I’m sure you meant Burago.

  20. Adam Kosterski says:

    1. Post too long – should have been broken up into episodes.

    2. Sort this one out – What is the correct behaviour regarding indicating in the following situation

    It would see that even the commenting instructor contradicts himself in his explanation (see comments at bottom of article’ when he described when indicating is required i.e. “Zmiana kierunku ruchu to skręcenie z jednej drogi w drugą lub zjechanie w ogóle z drogi.”
    Figure it out please.
    As far as I can see the polish interpretation is that on seeing any crossroads, no matter what the main road is (i.e. droga z pierszeństwem, we must show which direction we are going by indicating).

  21. Michael says:

    Brad, do you know exactly what the procedure is for getting a Polish license is? I’ve heard fairly confictling things. Although the most common thing I’ve heard is that I have to take the written (theory) exam (in Polish) and then give them my US license…Is that abotu what you have/had to do to get a Polish license? Help Please!!!!

  22. darthsida says:

    while waiting for Brad, see the consulate page for basic info.

  23. ge'ez says:

    Global warming is very funny, innit?

    I must say that I find IPPC scientists more credible than a pathetic political hack.

  24. darthsida says:


    Ecofreaks flabbergasted when told meat pollutes more than cars are funny, yes. Nothing too funny in global warning or cooling or else – a phenomemon, one of many. Global warnings about natural phenomena could be funny – weren’t they just for money. (Not American, not Chinese money, alas.)

    PS I didn’t open the link. I must say I find bodies with one vowel in their www address as marginally credible.

  25. ge'ez says:

    That’s exactly why I haven’t devoted myself to learning Polish.

  26. ge'ez says:

    What “ecofreaks” were flabbergasted by the problem of cowfarts? Please specify.

    Most ecological activists I know have long realized that knocking down rain forests to raise McDonald’s beef is a problem in more than one way.

    Some people will try to make a buck off of anything. That doesn’t mean global warming isn’t a real problem.

  27. scatts says:

    On the rare occasions I have been stopped and handed over my British driving licence, policemen have told me that I should (must) get a Polish one.

    I’ve always worked on the basis that this is advice I shall ignore but for no particularly good reason. Michael’s plea above, albeit about an American license, prompted me to look this up and here’s what I found on the British consulate website;


    According to EU law, driving licences issued by any EU member state are mutually recognised in other EU member states. Article 94 of the Act on Road Transport (Polish law) states that a foreigner who has a valid driving licence issued by an EU Member State may drive in Poland. If you are a resident of Poland and wish to change your driving licence for a Polish licence you may do so but there is no requirement to do so.

    You must carry original vehicle-registration papers, ownership documents and insurance papers at all times. This is a legal requirement. They will be asked for if you are stopped by the police and, in particular, when crossing borders. This also applies to rental vehicles. If you do not have these papers when stopped by the police they have the right to impound your vehicle and charge you for this.

    There is a zero tolerance for drink driving in Poland. If you drive and have been drinking (even 1 unit of alcohol) you can be charged. If you break Polish Driving Regulations you should be prepared to pay on the spot a fine in cash in Polish currency to the Police. Foreigners who are settled in Poland and have a permanent address may be fined with a credit ticket that can be paid later.

  28. darthsida says:

    => Anna
    No schools with ATVs in Sweden – I’m shocked. Have we found a less AT-ful country than Poland?

    => Scatts
    Seems the differences between rights of US and UK drivers in Poland are as major as EU membership.

    => Adam
    1. I know the post is long. The pros have been more valid than the cons, however.
    2. The “nobody knows for sure” situation I was writing about is this or that (note the first left-blinking in the latter pic).

  29. DC says:

    I guess not everyone finds it quite so easy in the UK:

  30. darthsida says:

    hilarious, let’s blame it on Italian coffee.

    The “in the UK” part is right, yet the accent of the lady directs my thinking to some other places. Further googling directs me here: Mrs Clarke […] came to the UK from her native Poland in 1972

  31. DC says:

    Oh no! You’ve destroyed my happy illusion – I thought for sure the accent was not Polish, although I could not place it. Heh heh.

    Yes, the Italian coffee! I wonder if the Italians realize the implication…

  32. island1 says:

    Darth: “DISCLAIMER: This post is short. But it has a PS”

    Oh yes, it sure does.

    Fabulous stuff.

  33. darthsida says:

    All your car rental firms (see one logo at the post’s bottom for 1 example) are so yummamoto. I mean, oh man, sun of Jamaica, Hawaii, even [where is it?] Saint-Barthélemy? You sure settled down in life much more fabulously.

  34. […] three point turn, Vauxhall, Warsaw, Welsh road signs, working time, YouTube Britain 10:0 Poland, yet Polish Drivers Winning The longest blog-post ever written. We hid our codebooks […]

  35. Anonymous says:


  36. Steven Woodruff says:

    My theory is that 45 years of occupation and the average family having to wait 17 years to get permission to purchase a piece of crap car has the Poles so pissed… they are still stewing over it, and it really shows in the way they drive …man are they angry.

  37. Anonymous says:

    fucking polish twats

  38. island1 says:

    hooray! we have a twat.

  39. Damascus_ari says:

    Um, great post! Unfortunately, the pics at the end weren’t all as you described them.

    Pic 1: The white arrow on a blue rectangle means “one-way street”. It it were round, it would mean “go ahead”. Backing up in a one-way street is allowed and that is how one exits. Yep. Only in Poland :).

    Pic 2: The two black arrows on a yellow triangle mean “two-way traffic ahead”- I assume this is a one way street, and to channel cars back into one lane this beauty was devised. It is odd, granted, but workable.

    Pic 3: Nope. No excuse.

    Pic 4: That is an entrance to a construction site. No vehicles other than those necessary should enter. Someone just didn’t care to write an exception in tiny font, it’s nothing major.

    Pic 5: Um. Yeah.

    Pic 6: At least they changed it?

    Pic 7: The first sign is redundant.

    Pic 8: The park sign is angled differently- see the car to the left? It’s parked in front of the park sign. It’s behind that space the other sign is in effect. I assume there is a turn we don’t see there or some other road feature/installation. This is perfectly logical and okay, and probably quite clear in context.

    Pic 9: Drunk.

    Pic 10: Very drunk.

    Pic 11: Handicapped people, police, ambulances, government cars, etc. can still go there. The blockade must have been constructed for some reason, and that reason necessary limits the cars entering to those that can pass through those “no entry” signs.

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