Poland seeks new opportunities to improve road safety

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Paying tribute to those killed in road crashes and taking a united stand to reduce road deaths were among the key themes of an international conference organized by the Polish Government just after the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims on 22 November.

In 2009 alone, 4,572 people were killed in road crashes in Poland, putting the country on the top of the list for road-crash-related deaths in Europe.

Entitled “Road Accident Victims – Our Common Responsibility,” the conference was held at the Polish Parliament building in Warsaw. It brought together some 150 participants including representatives of GRSP, the international community, as well as senior level officials from the government and public organizations.

“If we strive for 50 per cent reduction of road deaths by 2020 we need to involve decision making  resources, share experiences and go beyond local and regional contexts,” said Grzegorz Schetyna, the speaker of the Polish Parliament opening the meeting.

Ministers and heads of departments discussed, among other things: the consequences of road crashes on quality of life, improving legislation, road quality, obstacles to effective rescue action, drawbacks of the legal procedures on road offences, preventive measures, education and public awareness, psychological trauma after road crashes, the role of the church and the role of insurance companies.

Minister of Justice Krzysztof Kwiatkowski emphasized the specific importance of reducing the number of deaths and improving the quality of life for victims.  “Alongside with the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice bares its share of responsibility for the problem – we are responsible for the quality of life of the road-crash victims,” he said.

Practical steps taken by his department, he added, include the establishment of a ministerial board on road safety and an agreement signed recently with the Federation of NGOs that aims to help victims of crime. He then continued with a suggestion to adopt a charter of rights for road crash victims. “Road safety is a product that we need to market, advertise and sell well,” he said.

“The current length of procedures in road crash cases are demoralizing for the society,” noted Irena Lipowicz, Polish Civil Rights Ombudsman. “The interviews with minor victims and witnesses need additional attention to avoid causing more stress and sufferings. Psychological, mental and social support to road-crash victims are roles often associated with the Red Cross. However this is not yet the case in Poland.  Road crash victims are often marginalised from systems of care.  And we still do not have a strong social coalition to address these issues.”

The range and depth of concern was echoed by the interest shown by Conference participants. They showed great interested in the global Decade of Action for Road Safety.

“The launch of the Decade of Action in the Road Safety will contribute considerably to highlighting our national action for road safety,” said Jacek Zalewski, Director of the Department of Supervision and Analysis, the Ministry of Interior and Administration of the Republic of Poland. “We consider road safety a very important issue, not only at the national level, but also as an issue of outmost importance in its international dimension. I am convinced, that the global Decade of Action for Road Safety which is to be launched next year, will have a very positive impact globally.”

Barbara Krol, GRSP regional coordinator for Europe and Central Asia, suggested that Poland has a key role to play in the Decade of Action. “As one of the biggest EU countries, Poland can make a significant contribution in the reduction of death tolls in Europe,” she said. “To do that it needs to unite further the efforts made at various levels and by different stakeholders. GRSP Poland is there to help connect national achievements with international experience and support. ”

At the Conference, GRSP/Poland took the initiative to foster the coalition by joining efforts for the launch of the Decade of Action scheduled for 11 May next year.

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