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Polish archbishop urges action against road maniacs

A Roman Catholic archbishop has urged Poles to take direct action to prevent drink-driving, which has helped give the country Europe’s highest road fatality rate.

"If they see a drunk trying to move a car, they should take the keys and call the police, and above all prevent him taking to the road," Marian Golebiewski, the archbishop of Wroclaw, said in a 31 October radio appeal. "Such a role has nothing to do with informing – it’s a duty of conscience."

The church leader was speaking in the run-up to the 1 November All Saints Day public holiday, during which 97 per cent of Poland’s 38 million inhabitants visit cemeteries, according to statistics, to lay flowers and candles. There are often hundreds of road deaths and injuries on the day, many attributed to drink driving.

A Catholic priest who accompanied traffic police "to encourage driver responsibility" said he was shocked by what he saw, noting that some cars were driven at three times the speed limit outside crowded suburban graveyards.

"The penalties are harsh, but people are mad," the Rev. Wojciech Wycislik told Poland’s Catholic information agency KAI on 31 October. "As soon as the patrol was rid of one driver, another had to be stopped."

The European Union has demanded action to control frenzied road users in Poland, which witnessed more than 4800 road deaths in the past year, at least twice the level of countries such as Britain, Germany and Italy.

The country’s co-governing Polish Families League has called for passengers to be made criminally liable for the drivers’ conduct in the country, where annual pure alcohol consumption rose over the past decade from 6.5 to 10 litres per inhabitant.

At the same time Katowice archbishop, Damian Zimon, appealed to Catholics during the All Saints festival in a pastoral letter: "I ask you to have the courage to demand sobriety from husbands, fathers, brothers and brothers-in-law. We are all jointly responsible for safe travelling."

(c) Ecumenical News International