Summary of selected changes introduced to the laws on penalties for traffic misconduct in Poland
At the beginning of 2022, penalties for driving misconduct have significantly increased as a result of a number of changes introduced to the Code of Petty Offences (and ordinances setting the amount of speeding tickets and penalty points for specific misconduct). Since January 1, 2022 certain traffic misconducts have been punishable with tickets of up to PLN 2,500 (EUR 520), while starting from September 17, 2022, in special situations, this amount increased to as much as PLN 5,000 (EUR 1,040). Moreover, a driver may now be given a ticket of PLN 6,000 (EUR 1,250), if he/she commits more misconducts at the same time. These are drastic changes if you compare the rates with those from 2021, when a maximum of PLN 500 (EUR 104) could have been given for one offence and a maximum of PLN 1,000 (EUR 208) for several misconducts committed at once.
These changes apply not only to speeding tickets but also to fines imposed by court sentences. The maximum court fine for a traffic misconduct may currently amount to even as much as PLN 30,000 (EUR 6,250), compared to the previous PLN 5,000 (EUR 1040). Moreover, a number of provisions now stipulate the minimum fine amounts (e.g., not less than: PLN 800/EUR 167, PLN 1,500/EUR 313, PLN 2,500/EUR 520). The new laws, which strictly define the minimum fines are controversial as they seem to affect the perpetrators that are less well off more severely than others while, after all, these acts are not as blameworthy and should not be stigmatized as crimes. As for now, the fines imposed for certain traffic misconducts are higher than those imposed for crimes.
Moreover, starting from September 17, 2022, if over a period of two years you are punished (by a ticket or a sentence) again for the same traffic misconduct, a ticket in a double amount is issued or a fine amounting to as much as PLN 5,000 (EUR 1,040) per one violation is imposed.
Not only the financial consequences of traffic misconducts have gotten more severe now, also the number of penalty points assigned to perpetrators for individual violations has increased recently. Note that, although penalty points have a punitive factor, which is reflected by their name, they rather constitute an administrative element of re-educational system than a penal measure. Penalty points are assigned per each violation, depending on its severity. Once a driver exceeds a maximum of 24 penalty points, his/her driving license is suspended. Penalty points are recorded in the Central Register of Drivers Violating Road Traffic Regulations. An interesting fact is that those who do not have a Polish driving license can be recorded there too. After September 17, 2022, the maximum number of penalty points that can be obtained for certain violations increased from 10 to 15, which has significantly increased the risk of exceeding the 24 points level. It is worth to emphasize that if you breach several regulations at a time (e.g. by overtaking another vehicle at a pedestrian crossing at an excessive speed), the points for each violation will add up.
Keep in mind that you can always check your current penalty points level at the nearest police station or on a website: https://obywatel.gov.pl/. However, the latter method requires an interested party to have a Trusted Profile (an official administrative account for Polish citizens).
I believe that the most important examples of misconducts that are now subject to more severe penalty are as follows:
- a group of misconducts related to impeding the movement of pedestrians – currently they may lead to a fine of at least PLN 1,500 (EUR 312), such a ticket or a sentence of at least that amount) and 15 penalty points,
- speeding- exceeding the speed limit by 31 km/h and above equals a minimum of PLN 800 (EUR 167) ticket or at least the same amount of a fine and 9 penalty points; speeding by 51 km/h costs respectively: PLN 1,500 (EUR 312) and 13 penalty points; up to a maximum of PLN 2,500 (EUR 520) and 15 penalty points for exceeding the speed limit by 71 km/h and above. At this point it is worth mentioning that, if you are caught speeding by more than 50 km/h in a built-up area, a driving license is withheld for 3 months in Poland,
- drunk driving - if a driver has from 0.02% to 0.05% of alcohol in the blood system or from 0.1 mg to 0.25 mg of alcohol in 1 dm3 of exhaled air, the police won't issue a ticket, but the case is immediately referred to court; The court imposes a fine of at least PLN 2,500 (EUR 520); In addition, the perpetrator is assigned 15 penalty points (higher blood concentration or volume in the exhaled air than indicated above is an offense specified in the Penal Code and is punished much more severely);
- road collision - causing a threat to road safety as a result of failure to exercise due care, if as a result of this event another person suffers even minor injuries, is subject to a fine of at least PLN 1,500 (EUR 312) and 12 penalty points;
- a group of misconducts related to entering the railway crossing when it is not allowed – they are now punishable with a fine of at least PLN 2,000 (EUR 417, a ticket or a sentence) and 15 penalty points.
There is no doubt that all these changes have been introduced to take advantage of the deterrent function of penalties. Nevertheless, the legislator seems to be forgetting that even a threat of the most severe punishment does not always act as a deterrent. When it comes to traffic violations, death of the driver or other participants of the traffic should be the most deterring factor, and still not many people seem to be thinking about it when driving.
As for now, after a short period of time following the introduction of new laws, we may observe certain changes in drivers' behavior, as the statistics show a slight decline in the number of road incidents. However, the increasing fuel prices, which make consumers opt for public means of transport more, may distort this picture. Surely, we need more time to assess whether the introduced changes will have the desired effect and will improve the safety on Polish roads. If not, the legislator will probably have to invest more in education of young drivers and improvement of road infrastructure, rather than just believe that if you force drivers to limit the speed, all the road problems will just vanish.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.