BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA
The Cambodian Ministry of Public Works and Transport in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior celebrated “Road Safety Week” April 7 at Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh as part of Global Road Safety Week.
Yim Chhay Ly, Deputy Prime Minister and High Representative of Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen, said this is third Road Safety Week celebrated in Cambodia due to the suggestion the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP). The global event, which is organized by many nations in the Asia Pacific and around the world, is scheduled to take place April 23-29.
The Cambodian government permitted the National Road Safety Week to be held April 7-14 to be in alignment with the Khmer New Year, according to Chhay Ly.
He pointed out that the main purpose of the event is to wake up the people at all levels to work hand in hand to prevent and reduce road clashes. Cambodia, he said, is working to keep fatalities under five per 10,000 registered vehicles by 2010 and under two fatalities by 2020, figures determined by ASEAN nations.
“We have less than two years to achieve the plan,” Chhay Ly said. “Therefore, I hereby suggest all relevant ministries, particularly Ministry of Interior, which plays the role of the enforcement agency, should try to figure out ways to accomplish the national road safety policy.”
During the last five years, road fatality doubled to 14.87 fatalities per 10,000 registered vehicles, he said.
“Traffic police must enforce laws and regulations and make sure that the enforcement remains an effective tool to minimize road crashes toward a lowest level, leading to social development and poverty reduction, which is in line with the Rectangle Strategy made by the government,” Chhay Ly said during the event’s opening remarks.
He said the event will contribute to national economic development, and consequently, create more jobs, promote equity and strengthen transport sector.
“I suggest all relevant ministries and authorities at all levels, especially all drivers, enforce and comply with the law and respect the traffic law in a consistent manner,” Chhay Ly said. “I fully support the implementation of road safety action plan, and hereby appeal for involvement and financial and material support from relevant ministries, authorities at all levels and private sector in order to fruitfully achieve road safety.”
Tram Iv Tek, Minister of Public Works and Transport and Chairman of the National Road Safety Committee, said the implementation of Road Safety Week coincided with the traffic law signed by His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni on February 8, 2007.
The Minister said that of all ASEAN nations, Cambodia is currently contributing the highest rate of road accidents compared to its population density and traffic volume. On average, four people are killed and 30 are injured per day, according to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.
The ministry’s data, which is collected yearly, showed road crashes have increased by 15 percent each year while the number of vehicle increased by 10 percent. In 2008, the road fatalities accounted for 14.84 percent, with 10 fatalities per 10,000 registered vehicles in some ASEAN countries.
Iv Tek said in Cambodia, motorbike crashes account for 70 percent of all traffic accidents. In these crashes, 86 percent suffer from head injuries, which lead to death. In 2003, Asian Development Bank (ADB) found that road crashes caused 824 fatalities and cost Cambodia US$116 million or 3 percent of the GDP.
To reduce current road crash fatalities in Cambodia, the National Road Safety Committee developed a policy and 15-point action plan to prevent and minimize crashes, aiming at save lives and ensure an orderly and safe environment, said Iv Tek.
He said the primary action disseminate information and educate the public on new traffic laws. The second action is to encourage motorcycle riders to wear helmets. The third action is to issue penalties for speeding and drunk driving.
Dr. Michel Thieren, Representative of World Health Organization (WHO), said traffic injuries are a major public health problem globally. He said every year, 1.3 million people are known to die in road accidents worldwide.
“We appreciate the Cambodian government’s commitment to recognizing the seriousness of this preventable epidemic by implementing mandatory road traffic law enforcement, in particular helmet enforcement which took effect January 1, 2009,” Thieren said. “We are sure that the involvement of government agencies, international agencies, NGOs, private sectors and citizens will play a crucial role to encourage road users to obey the road traffic law and in crease self-protection from road accidents.”
Thieren continued to say that road traffic accidents place a heavy burden, not only on global and national economies but also on individual household’s finances. Many families are driven deeply into poverty by the loss of breadwinners and the added burden of caring for family members disabled by road traffic injuries.
According to UNESCAP, road crashes around the globe are ever increasing, causing about 1.2 million fatalities and 15 million causalities every year. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for 70 percent of the above fatalities and causalities.
Motorcycle riders and pedestrians account for 65 percent of transport volume. On the other hand, ASEAN report shows that there are 75,000 people were killed by road crash, and caused another 4.7 percent injured every year, costing US$15 Billion or 2.2 percent of GDP.
“We strongly believe that the traffic law enforcement, together with effective education, public awareness raising campaigns and strong coordination of respective ministries, stakeholders and partners under the leadership of the National Road Safety Committee, will lead to a successful results in reducing road accidents and promote national prestige in Cambodia,” Thieren said.