Polish campaign aims to cut road death carnage

Poland has launched a safety campaign in a desperate attempt to reduce the annual slaughter on the country's roads that has made them among the most dangerous in Europe and the developed world.

Last year 4,572 people died in road traffic accidents, compared with 2,222 deaths in the UK, despite the fact Britain has 22 million more people than Poland, a greater number of cars and far more extensive road network.

"We have an infamous place in the road safety rankings," Piotr Klucz, the country's deputy transport minister, told a conference on road safety.

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"The chances of dying here are twice the European average, and the chances of being an accident victim are four times higher."

He added that the annual cost of road accidents comes to the equivalent of about 4 billion - about 2 per cent of GDP.

Poland's government wants to halve the number of deaths by 2020 by improving roads, policing and driver education.

The announcement comes just two weeks after a single bank holiday weekend claimed 90 lives, and a month after 18 people died when a van carrying farm workers ploughed headlong into an HGV near Warsaw in the worst road crash in Poland for 16 years.

Neglected during communism - a period when few Poles could afford cars - the dilapidated road network has become a source of danger and frustration.

Despite being the fifth biggest country in Europe, Poland has little more than 600 miles of motorway. Along with this, few Polish cities have ring roads, and existing roads come liberally scattered with potholes and ruts.

Polish drivers also have a reputation for aggression while paying scant attention to other road users and pedestrians.