Safety of road users – expert panel at NIK

According to the panel participants, the situation on Polish roads will not improve without the “leading” institution. The scale of the problem is reflected in statistics. As regards road traffic safety (measured with the number of road fatalities per 1 million inhabitants) Poland took 24th place among 27 EU countries last year.

Countries with the lowest road traffic safety levels: Romania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Poland. Source: NIK’s analysis

Every year nearly 3 thousand people die on Polish roads,

which is 8 persons a day.

About 30 thousand people get injured,

which is more than 82 persons a day.

Economic losses caused by accidents are estimated at

over PLN 55 billion per year.

NIK President Marian Banaś noted that the Supreme Audit Office has paid special attention to road traffic safety for many years now. Considering the scale of human tragedies, social problems and material losses related to road accidents, this is one of key social issues at the moment.

NIK President emphasised that the comments and observations of scientists, representatives of road safety services, local government officials and journalists who took part in the NIK panel will help NIK develop recommendations to improve road traffic safety. They will be included in the mega-report called “The safety of road users” that will be published in the second half of June.

NIK President Marian Banaś making a statement during the expert panel

NIK auditors’ findings are largely focused on the way of implementing recommendations from the mega-report of 2014. Although NIK made a lot of recommendations in the audited areas, only some of them were fully implemented. As a result, as NIK already predicted in 2014, the safety of road traffic has been improving at a very slow pace. Works on some of NIK’s comments and recommendations were not even started, and some of them were stopped without giving reason. According to the Supreme Office this situation results from the lack of a comprehensive and system vision of the state policy focused on the prevention of road traffic threats. This is the case despite the fact that this area was supposed to be one of the administration’s priorities in the area of safety.

Therefore, responsibility for road traffic safety is dispersed and competence conflicts often hinder the implementation of essential changes. NIK has also pointed out that the process of developing and consulting draft acts, significant for road traffic safety, takes too long. Besides, according to NIK, the attempt to implement the National Programme for Road Traffic Safety 2013-2020 has been ineffective as its main objective – reduction of casualties – has not been achieved.

The expert panel participants at NIK agreed that there should be an institution with a stable budget that would be responsible for all tasks related to road traffic safety: compliance with law, infrastructure and education. That would prevent dispersion of competence and ensure accountability for actions already taken. Bringing such an institution to life was already recommended in 2014, not only by NIK, but also by the World Bank (in a report prepared at the request of the Minister of Infrastructure).

According to the Director of the Motor Transport Institute prof. Marcin Ślęzak, there is no such institution as the Civil Aviation Authority or the Office of Rail Transport, with stable financing which allows for long-term activities.

Panel participants during a debate

Dean of the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering of the Gdańsk University prof. Joanna Żukowska stressed that independence is critical for such an institution. Otherwise, nothing will change – argued Ms Żukowska: the Ministry creates its own programmes, implements them using its own instruments, evaluates itself and in the end does not take responsibility for it all. Prof. Żukowska also emphasised it is essential to split investigation into accident causes and establishing culprits, which works well in the aviation, water or rail transport. Those systems focus on identifying causes. Therefore, if they find and eliminate them once, the system may be more efficient – explained prof. Żukowska.

“How can we talk about any system operation if there is no National Road Safety Programme in place for the next decade? This is May now and we still do not know based on what plan we have operated this year – said journalist Krzysztof Woźniak from Radio Tok FM. In his opinion, talking about safety, this problem should be solved from the very top – from establishing the “leading” situation that would be responsible for compliance with the law and its enforcement, infrastructure and education.

As for road infrastructure, dean of the Faculty of Civil Engineering of the Cracow University of Technology prof. Andrzej Szarata pointed to the issue of reactive actions, that is analysing dangerous places on the roads based on past incidents. In his opinion, proactive actions are needed to prevent the occurrence of places, where dangerous behaviours, such as risky car driving, concentrate. According to prof. Szarata, proactive actions need to be strictly related to finance. He said it would not help much if we indicate 200 dangerous spots if we can afford financing the liquidation of 15 of them.

However, even the best infrastructure will not prevent the most tragic road accidents. They usually result from different factors. The National Emergency Medicine Consultant prof. Jerzy Ładny said the key to improvement could be medical aid, so called pre-hospital assistance, provided sooner than before. These days road casualties wait for this type of assistance 20 minutes on average, which is 2.5 times longer as compared with the European standard. As much as 78% of all pre-hospital deaths are reported in that timespan. Half of the injured die because of injuries before they reach a hospital. Ghana has a similar ratio, in Mexico it is 40% and in the United States only 21%. Prof. Jerzy Ładny is of the opinion that only every second accident victim is provided with full-scope medical assistance.

Panel participants listening to the statement of a NIK representative

In its recommendations given since 2014, NIK has laid emphasis among others on promoting proper behaviours among road users. Long-term education is also crucial – underlined President of the Polish Road Safety Partnership Dorota Olszewska. She also pointed out that currently educational programmes focus on primary and possibly secondary schools, leaving out young and older drivers. Besides, as for the programmes addressed to schools, because of the multitude of organisations conducting them, the programmes are dispersed and not always based on the latest knowledge. Also, they were not recommended by anyone as there is no entity to give such recommendations.

Speeding has been the primary cause of accidents on Polish roads for years. Secretary of the National Road Safety Council Konrad Romik was among the panel participants who found it critical to sanction dangerous behaviours. Prof. Andrzej Szarata noted that stigmatisation of drunk drivers has proven successful, now speeding should be stigmatised.

Taking into consideration the opinions of experts participating in the panel, NIK will propose in its mega-report system solutions related to road safety. NIK’s recommendations will also concern road infrastructure and road signing, road traffic supervision, rescue activities, technical condition of vehicles and training programmes for drivers.

 

Article informations

Date of creation:
11 June 2021 13:49
Date of publication:
11 June 2021 13:49
Published by:
Marta Połczyńska
Date of last change:
11 June 2021 13:49
Last modified by:
Marta Połczyńska
Participants of expert panel on road safety at NIK headquarters

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