TRAFFIC to make your skin crawl – everyone’s nightmare in a big city. Especially when it makes a daily 20-minute – tuk-tuk or motodop – commute take two hours. Many tuk-tuk drivers from all around the city agree: “If Cambodia had flyovers or, even better, traffic police, we might start to see better traffic conditions,” was the common response.
“Many Chinese and Westerners drive the bulky cars, Hummers, or land cruisers mostly because they work for big companies and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and because their vehicles are so big they take up the whole road’s width, so we cannot go past them.”
One added: “(How) I wish the roads were taken care of more. We dump too much rubbish and set up too many stalls on the roadside.”
Dara, a tuk-tuk driver from Street 172, says he experiences some of the worst traffic.
“I’ve seen so many accidents and so many roadblocks because the police want to shut down the street for a wedding, or a government event – and it makes it even harder to move around the city.”
So what can be done?
It is no secret that Cambodian traffic laws are still very under-developed and with more and more motorbikes on Cambodia’s roads every day and more road collisions, road users must be more cautious.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng said as much that as of November, there were more than 3,400 traffic accidents in the Kingdom in 2019 in which 1,665 people were killed and 5,212 injured
Speaking at World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims event in Koh Pich, Phnom Penh, Mr Sar Kheng said the number of accidents had increased by 28 per cent when compared with the same period last year (January to October). Phnom Penh Governor Khuong Sreng, who also heads the Municipal Subcommittee on Road Traffic Safety, said at the event that City Hall and the subcommittee will continue to actively promote awareness on Road Traffic Laws so that drivers respect and adhere.
“Traffic accidents not only cause loss of property and lives but also leave many social issues such as disabilities, orphans and widows,” he said. “They also cause socio-economic problems arising from loss of property, human resources, family members, breadwinners of families and affect the national economy.”
A moto rider who gave his name as ‘Sok’ on Monivong Boulevard, said: “All these Chinese are buying the buildings and investing in Cambodia and I think that the country will get over-populated. We already have enough Westerners here.”
The latest report from the Ministry of Tourism states that foreign arrivals to Cambodia in 2019 have risen by 10 per cent during the first nine months of the year as the Chinese continue to top the list of tourist arrivals, as well as foreign investments into Cambodia. For five straight years between 2013 and 2017, China has been Cambodia’s largest foreign direct investor (FDI), with investment capital of $5.3 billion or about $1 billion annually according to figures from the Cambodia Investment Board at the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC).
Meanwhile, SMCS RISK, a company that specialises in risk management and safety solutions, is adding to its already growing list of driver-training courses and has launched motorbike-training courses in Cambodia. Two courses have been launched: motorbike safety awareness and motorbike skill enhancement, both of which are designed to teach participants the core safety elements associated with riding a scooter, moto or motorcycle on the roads. From Nov 28, SMCS RISK started to train 200 employees at Japanese Tobacco International (JTI) about motorbike safety awareness and safe riding tactics. When asked if it planned to take the courses to the general public, SMCS RISK chief executive officer Mitch May said: “There is no requirement to undertake a motorbike licence test in Cambodia if you ride a bike under 125cc. That means there are millions of motorbike riders on Cambodian roads without any formal training. We are very happy that some companies in Cambodia such as JTI are working towards improving rider safety.” When GoodTimes2 asked some citizens if they wanted to take part in road safety courses, the response was double-edged.
“Yes we would love to take courses to learn how to drive, but only if others learn to drive as well,” said a man who only gave his name as Mr Bo.
Srey Ly, a coffee seller near the Old Market, said traffic accidents can be quite gruesome. “I’ve seen people hurt themselves badly because they don’t heed the (traffic) lights, or even because they are busy on their phone,” she said incredulously.
Mr May, SMCS RISK’s CEO, adds: “Anyone can take our course. If someone from the public wishes to undertake the training, they will be added to our waiting list. When that’s full, we will go ahead and conduct the course. However, as the number of participants rises, we will have set training days for people to sign up to.”
He also said: “Safety is commonly overlooked in Cambodia and a lot of riders lack even basic education regarding road usage. We believe basic steps and self-awareness are the key to stemming the flow of fatal accidents in the Kingdom. As a road user, you cannot control what others do, but you can control what you do. So undertaking our moto rider awareness courses is a fantastic way to equip yourself with the necessary skills and knowledge to ride safely on the roads.”
The consensus of the people seems to be that with better policing standards and better safety courses Cambodia can have secure roads and safer drivers and riders. The wait is now on, to see if Cambodia can change its ways before the roads become ridden with tombstones.