BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA
Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested the Minister of Interior, Minister of Justice, and Minister of Public Works and Transports to work together and examine articles of Traffic Law to encourage all motorbike riders to wear helmets whenever using the road. Road traffic accidents are now a major concern for the government.
Speaking before the ministry of the Interior, May 19 he said “Road traffic accidents are a national scourge. To reduce the rate of deaths and injuries I suggest that all relevant officials and ministries work hard together and take immediate measures to reduce the rate of road fatalities.”
The Prime Minister said that early his year, motorcyclists were informed that they must wear helmets. However, only 50% are currently doing so. Hun Sen suggested that relevant authorities examine the possibility of confiscating motorbikes from those riders who ignored the law.
“I think that the system of fines has not worked. Confiscating the machines until such time as the rider is willing to obey the traffic laws may be more effective”.
El Narin, Deputy Chief of the Municipal Traffic Police Office in the Ministry of Interior, said that currently about 55 percent of Phnom Penh’s motorcycle riders wear helmets. When the helmet campaign began in early January 2009, 90 percent of motorcyclists wore helmets. The reason for the decrease he suggested was a lack of manpower that prevented permanent staffing of checkpoints.
HE continued that to reduce the rate of road traffic accidents his personnel have been educating road users about traffic law and how to ride defensively.
He also said that the Municipal Traffic Police have installed ten Speed Cameras on main roads and checkpoints in Phnom Penh. The traffic police have also been provided with breathalyzers to detect drunk drivers.
Pea Kimvong, Road Safety Awareness Officer with Handicap International Belgium (HIB), said since road traffic laws come into force in September 2007, enforcement had been patchy resulting in modest improvements.
Kimvong said that according to the Road Traffic Accident and Victim Information System (RTAVIS) report 2009, on average, 4 people die and more than 75 are injured daily on the roads of Cambodia.
He pointed out that over 90 percent of accidents are caused by human error. Speed, particularly along the national roads, drink-driving and dangerous overtaking maneuvers are the main causes of accidents.
He continued that motorcycle riders are particularly vulnerable: 72 percent of road traffic casualties are motorcycle riders and most of them were not wearing helmets. Pedestrians and children are also increasingly vulnerable on Cambodian roads.
He emphasized that road accidents and casualties also hinder development by killing and disabling economically active members of the population.
He added road traffic accidents have an enormous impact on the social and economic welfare of Cambodia with an estimated annual cost of USD 116 million, representing around 3% of the country GDP.
According to Ministry of Public Works and Transport, there are over one million vehicles and motorcycles in Cambodia. However, only 50 percent of drivers have driving-licenses.///