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Alarming increase in road accidents and deaths

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
KT/Alex Consiglio

Despite multiple road safety campaigns this year, the number of accidents rose by an alarming 32 percent and the death toll jumped by 27 percent, a police report published yesterday showed.

The Kingdom’s roads are notoriously deadly, with an average of five people dying per day in crashes, a number that jumped to seven prior to multiple safety campaigns launched earlier this year.

The campaigns included the dissemination of the traffic law, distribution of helmets, and a crackdown on helmetless drivers, who were only allowed to continue their journeys once acquiring a helmet. A 10-point moral leaflet on road safety was also distributed.

Nonetheless, the report from the National Police yesterday stated that in the first nine months of the year, 988 traffic accidents occurred nationwide, up by 32 percent during the same period last year. The crashes led to the deaths of 488 people, a jump of 27 percent, and injuries to 1,494 people, up by 45 percent.

Major General Ty Long, deputy chief of the Department of Traffic Police and Public Order who tabled the report at a meeting to review outcomes of the implementation of the Law on Road Traffic, yesterday said the main causes of road crashes sadly remains the same – disregard of the law.

“The main cause of traffic accidents is because some people still do not obey the law; they are afraid of the police more than the law,” he said. “We can say that 33 percent of accidents were due to speeding, 27 percent failing to adhere to traffic rules, 13 percent because of not respecting the right of way, 10 percent because of reckless overtaking, nine percent due to improper turning, four percent because of driving under the influence of alcohol, and three percent from vehicle factors, while one percent can be attributed to the driver falling asleep.”

Maj Gen Long added that among the 488 deaths, most were in Phnom Penh with 83 deaths, followed by 45 in Kandal, 41 in Kampong Speu and 37 in Preah Sihanouk province.“I would also like to call on the people to obey traffic laws, especially by not driving over the speed limit, not overtaking in a dangerous situation and driving with mutual understanding so that we can reduce traffic accidents,” he added.

General Him Yan, deputy chief of the National Police, during the meeting urged officers to strengthen traffic safety control mechanisms at all levels, especially at capital and provincial levels.

Gen Yan also highlighted the importance to seek vulnerable targets, specifically motorcyclists, while also improving the quality of driving, strengthening vehicle inspections and increasing cooperation between levels of police agencies to educate drivers of the traffic law and install more traffic signs in rural areas.

A police officer provides a motorist with a helmet during a safety campaign. KT/Siv Channa

Interior Minister Sar Kheng, who is also the National Committee on Road Traffic Safety chairman, in April highlighted the alarming rise in road crashes and deaths, noting that he was concerned the Kingdom would not be able to meet the UN’s goal of halving the number of fatal traffic accidents by the middle of next year.

At the time, Mr Kheng noted that more than 1,700 people died in traffic accidents last year, an average of five deaths per day, but in the first three months of this year, more than 200 people died, bringing the average up to seven deaths per day.

In July, he again raised the alarm and spearheaded multiple road safety campaigns, including the distribution of helmets and a campaign to not allow motorcyclists to continue their journey once pulled over unless they found a helmet.

Institute for Road Safety director Kong Ratanak yesterday said that despite the government’s efforts to disseminate traffic laws and organise safety campaigns, the accident and death rate still increased, which is very concerning.

“What we have found in our studies is that the causes of accidents are speeding, which resulted in the death of many people,” he said. “The restriction on speed limits is carried out on cars only, not on motorcyclists to detain or punish them according to the law. So, I think that there should be restrictions on the speed limit for motorcyclists also.”

Mr Ratanak also urged relevant ministries and institutions to increase traffic law enforcement, vehicle inspections, especially for over-loaded trucks, and restrict alcohol advertisements.

Transport Minister Sun Chanthol has in the past said that traffic accidents cost the government nearly $350 million a year.

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