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Poland launches government program to reduce number of deaths, injuries from road accidents

Poland is launching a government program to reduce traffic fatalities and improve its horrible road safety record.

In 2011, Poland had Europe's worst road safety statistics, with 110 deaths per 1 million citizens, or almost 4,200 people killed, Interior Minister Jacek Cichocki said Wednesday at the launch of the program. Traffic accidents cost Poland about $6.5 billion in 2012, including medical costs, pensions for families of victims and lost workers.

The program aims to toughen the country's driving regulations, upgrade roads and increase the penalties for speeding to raise road safety to European Union standards. About 43 percent of accidents in Poland are caused by speeding, according to government figures.

The government wants to cut the number of deaths in half and the number of seriously injured 40 percent by the year 2020. Some 500,000 zlotys ($ 165,000) will be invested in road renovations this year.

The announcement came days after a journalist received a three-year prison term — subject to appeal — for causing the death of a colleague when he speeded and crashed a borrowed Ferrari in Warsaw in 2008. Many Poles believe that punishment was too lenient. Footage of the burning Ferrari aired on all news TV stations in Poland last week.

While traffic has rapidly increased in recent years, Poland has been slow in building highways and upgrading its narrow roads, a legacy of decades of communism, which did not encourage travel.