Thursday, November 17, 2005

Nightmares on asfalt

I normally don't have nightmares, or at least don't remember them, but this morning was different. I was having a driving dream, a Polish driving experience (PDE) dream. And I woke up very scared.

Let me try to explain what driving is like here first...

If you're on the interstate, any semblance of rules are thrown out the window, along with your cigarette (Poles love their country, but seem to love littering, too). Vehicles go what ever speed and fill any empty space that is possible with their rolling death bullet, whether it's into the opposing lane of traffic, on the shoulder, on the sidewalk, around the back side of bus stops, over bus stops (this has happened) and I've even seen cars not only drive at 160+ kph into oncoming traffic, I've seen them pass those same cars on THEIR side's shoulder!!!!


In the city, things are the same, except the drivers seem to aim for pedestrians (perhaps this is some left over Russian anti-Pole incentive program, where each driver who takes out a Pole gets an extra loaf of bread or slab of meat. Double if they were Catholic. Triple if in the Solidarity movement). Another oddity is the 'yield' law. Yes, we have yield signs and yes in America we yield to the right if everyone comes to an intersection at the same time (tricky with 4!), but in Poland you have to yield to the right.


No matter how wide the road you're driving on, and how narrow or dirty the road they're driving on (to your right), you must yield. I now know 3 expats who've gotten in accidents in these situations. 1)Expat 1 was in the intersection long before the car to the right (CTTR) came in. He got smashed in the rear, spun around and a hefty ticket, two days before leaving the country-for good. 2)Expat 2 is at a T-intersection, inching very, very slowly into the top of the T, and turning right. There were parked cars blocking her view. Once out, fully into the lane she saw a minvan barreling at her, with the driver's head down (likely dialing or sms-ing on her mobile). In my book, a head-on collision occurred, but since she was turning right, and regardless the person in CTTR wasn't watching the road, and was speeding (60k in a residential area), Expat 2 got a hefty ticket, and the bill for a shitload of auto damage. 3) Expat 3, ditto of Expat 1, even in the same frickin' intersection. Ticket to Expat 3. Fortunately, no one was hurt in these accidents. Just pissed. (American pissed, not British-otherwise there'd be some DUI action going on!)

Back to the yield. The above applies always, unless there's this stupid yellow and white diamond sign, one that is beyond normal graphical comprehension.

And lastly, here's a few notes from Wikitravel: Estimate double time used and double tiredness comparing to driving in countries like Germany or France.
Poles drive aggressively and with little or no regard to speed limits. Scenes seen on the Polish roads are sometimes described as shocking by the foreigners not accustomed to the way locals handle their machines. Drunk driving is also a big problem, despite heavy penalties. Overall, Poland has a higher index of deaths on the roads than many European countries.

Good times. Good times.

Well, lets add some spice to the mix and make it even crazier!

Over the last few years there have been a string of startling events in the news, regarding ambulance drivers in Lodz purposefully letting their patients die, or even adding lethal injections, in order to cash in on a little mortuary scam. Anyone ready for a Polish car accident yet?

So, finally, my dream:

I was driving our car along Warsaw's streets, on a moist day, almost reminiscient of a Seattle (insert any day of week here). I was driving on the wide Sluzew loop road that links Wilanow with Ursynow. The dream was of my view while driving and as the future events unfolded, the view changed from behind and above the car.

I'm doing about 60-70KPH, as are the cars around me. Jackass #1 comes barreling in on my left at twice the speed and cuts in front of me, just as Jackass #2 is pulling in from the road on the right (see above). Needless to say, it was suddenly a Hollywood style scene, with my car and yours truly rocketing up and spinning through the air, already a mangled piece of metal.

I awoke upon the next impact with one of the cars and I must have been in obvious freakout mode, as our little Polish cat, Dudek, came rushing to my rescue to soothe my nerves.

Was I looking forward to driving my girlfriend's mother to the airport in 2 hours during rush hour traffic after all this. On the same road?

I think not.

But this time I survived to tell the tale.


At 11/23/2005 08:40:00 PM, Anonymous Dezso Papp said...

In Hungary the main concern is usually the winter time driving for expats. Especially, on the hills of Buda (residential part of Budapest).

Not to say that Hungarian drivers would be generous or passive.

Drive on,



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