Driving through Poland: basic traffic regulations

You can find most of Polish traffic regulations in the Traffic Law Act established in 1997. For starters it states that Poland is a right-driving country. There are also some rules including speed limits and accepted blood alcohol content, which every driver – foreign or domestic – should know by heart:

  • The speed limit in built up areas from 5 am to 11 pm is 50 km per hour (60 km per hour from 11 pm to 5 am).
  • The speed limit outside built up areas is up to 140 km per hour depending on a type of highway.
  • Legal blood alcohol level is 0,2‰.
  • Passing beam lights have to be on during the ride throughout the whole year.
  • International or foreign driver’s license is valid in Poland for 6 months. After that you should take an exam to get Polish driver’s license.
  • Every car has to be equipped with fire distinguisher, first aid kit and warning triangle.

Who can give you a ticket?

If you don’t obey road rules defined by law, there’s a chance you will get a ticket. You can also be stopped by proper authorities for a routine control. It’s important to know what those authorities can and can’t do, to be sure they are not stepping outside of their jurisdiction.

Traffic police officer can ask you to pull over in order to conduct an inspection. During the routine checkup you can be asked to show your driver’s license, car registration document and compulsory motor insurance confirmation. Traffic police officer has a right to check your breath alcohol content and to control the technical condition of your car (he can even drive your car if it’s necessary to gain information). In some cases the officer is required to confiscate a driver’s license (e.g. when driver is intoxicated or his license is out of date) a car registration document (e.g. when the technical checkup is out of date) or to remove the car from a road (e.g. when its technical condition is endangering other traffic participants, when driver is too intoxicated or when someone is driving a car registered outside of EU without valid compulsory motor insurance).

It’s important to know that traffic police officer can’t search your car without a cause. Also, he can’t stop your car outside built up areas if he’s not wearing his uniform.

Beside police there’s another traffic law enforcement called municipal police, which has significantly less power than previous. In case of someone driving under the influence of alcohol municipal police officer is bound to wait for police to take action. Also, from the beginning of year 2016 municipal officer has no right to use police radar in order to catch those who exceeded speed limit. Both traffic police and municipal police can give you a ticket for breaking traffic law, which can cost from 50 to 500 zl.

Do you need motor liability insurance in Poland?

Motor third-party liability insurance is compulsory for all drivers. Those who travel to Poland by car registered in EU country can use their existing domestic motor insurance. Those who travel to Poland by car registered in country outside of EU are obligated to purchase International Motor Insurance Card (also called Green Card) first, which will allow them to use their insurance in case of emergency on Polish roads. And at last – those who don’t have neither valid motor third-party liability insurance nor Green Card – can purchase temporary insurance while crossing the Polish border (valid for 30 days).

Car accident in Poland – how to get indemnity?

Every car accident can cause a lot of stress and confusion at first, especially when it happens in foreign country and to make matters even worse unlucky participants have to deal with a language barrier. It helps to know upfront what to do in case of an accident. If anyone got hurt, either of the drivers is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs or if there’s any confusion about circumstances of the accident, you should call the police. They will write a report, which should make filing a claim easier for you. If the situation is clear, and the perpetrator of the accident admitted his guilt, you can skip the calling police part and just write a report yourself. Note that you will need the other driver’s ID and insurance information. It’s best to describe the circumstances of the accident in every little detail and if possible to take pictures showing damages.

There are three scenarios that could happen while dealing with a car accident on Polish roads:

  • the victim is a native and the perpetrator is a foreigner,
  • the victim is a foreigner and the perpetrator is a native,
  • both victim and perpetrator are foreigners, but the road traffic accident occurred in Poland.

When the accident occurred in Poland and the victim’s car is registered and insured abroad, they can go straight to the perpetrator’s insurer. Making a claim shouldn’t be that hard, thanks to the English speaking helplines provided by the biggest Polish companies. If you encounter any obstacles after all, you can always contact the proper insurer’s representative in your own country. List of the representatives should be posted on the website of your national motor insurers’ bureau. If it turns out that perpetrator of the road traffic accident doesn’t have a valid motor third-party insurance, don’t worry, the indemnity will be paid by proper Insurance Guarantee Fund.

Percentage of drivers without insurance in Poland is 1% of all registered vehicles, which can count to 250 000. It’s still considered a pretty unsatisfying result, but in comparison to Europe, Poland is one of the many countries with this rate of uninsured drivers.

Polish Motor Insurers’ Bureau and Insurance Guarantee Fund – how they can help?

PBUK (which translates to Polish Motor Insurers’ Bureau) is an association of motor third-party liability insurers, which performs the function of compensation body and information centre. PBUK issues the Green Card certificates and, more importantly for foreigners, it arranges the settlement of, or settles directly, claims in respect of loss or injury caused in the territory of Poland by holders of motor vehicles registered abroad who hold valid documents of insurance.

The other important organization is Insurance Guarantee Fund, which mission is to pay compensation to victims of road traffic accidents caused by uninsured drivers. Insurance Guarantee Fund also controls if registered drivers fulfilled the obligation to purchase motor third-party insurance and penalize those who didn’t. You can reach both organizations in via internet or make a call if you need additional information.