Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Government Continues Fight for Road Safety

BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA

Since early June of this year the first ever Cambodian speeding camera’s have been in use. Up till now there have been 80 cases of speed violations. The drivers had their vehicles confiscated, and only after their owners paid the fine, were the vehicles released. The use of speeding camera’s is part of a bigger operation where in the Government in collaboration with national and international NGO’S is trying to increase road safety. Other measurements taken are the enforcing of helmet and mirror use laws, as well as strict control on drunken driving. Recently the police in Phnom Penh have been provided with breathalyzers.

Road safety has become such an issue in Cambodia that Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen addressed it in a speech he made during a graduation ceremony at the Royal University of Law and Economics in Phnom Penh on August 12. In his speech the Premier made an urgent appeal to all motorbike riders to wear helmets and use properly installed mirrors for their own and other people’s safety. He stated that due to the high number of deaths and accidents occurring everyday on Cambodian roads, traffic safety is a major concern for the government.

“I would like to make this appeal to all motorbike riders in Cambodia; use mirrors and wear helmets every time you drive your motorbike, both day and night,” he said. “Further I suggest to all relevant authorities to strictly implement the Traffic Law.” Sandech Hun Sen ordered the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the Ministry of Economy and Finance to send their agents to work directly with traffic police at all cities and provinces across the country in order to collect tax or issue motorbike number for confiscated motorbikes.

Ouk Kimleng, Director of the National Road Safety Committee (NRSC) in the Ministry of Interior, explained to The Southeast Asia Weekly the goal of the new measurements: “We are working hard to reduce the rate of traffic accidents and mortality in Cambodia. In cooperation with Ministries and NGO’s we are training road users about traffic laws, safety measurements and how to ride defensively. We hope that if all roads users are better aware of road safety and use their mirrors and helmets while driving, we will be able to reduce the rate of road traffic accidents and their consequences in the future. Therefore, I would like to appeal to all the road users or motorbike riders to wear the helmets and respect traffic laws while driving.”

According to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, currently, Cambodia has the highest rate of road accidents compared to population density and traffic volumes of all ASEAN nations. Traffic accidents have been increasing by 15 percent every year, whereas the vehicle volume has only been increasing by 10 percent. According to the Road Traffic Accident and Victim Information System (RTAVIS) report, currently more than four persons die and more than 75 are injured daily on the roads.
Pea Kimvong, Road Safety Awareness Officer with Handicap International Belgium (HIB), said that over 90 percent of accidents are caused by human error. Speed, particularly along the national roads, drunk-driving and dangerously overestimating of the driver’s own abilities are the main causes of accidents. Kimvong further pointed out that motorbike riders are particularly vulnerable in Cambodia, 72 percent of road traffic casualties are motorcycle riders. Most motorcycle casualties were not wearing helmet at the time of their accident, which reduced their chance to survive the accident considerably.

Since January 1, 2009 the law that forbids drivers to hit the streets without helmets or properly installed mirrors is been of effect. Kimleng said his ministry has ordered to all cities and provincial authorities, traffic police and military police, to work together on implementing the “100 percent mirror and helmets use” in all 24 cities and provinces. Up till now about 30,000 motorbikes have been fined, because owners were not wearing helmets or the bikes lacked proper mirrors. Kimleng further stated that about 85 percent of drivers in Phnom Penh are abiding by the new law, and about 75 percent of drivers in the provinces.

Chiv Hark, Deputy Chief of the Municipal Traffic Police Office in the Ministry of Interior, said that the Municipal Traffic Police have installed a total of seven speed cameras on main roads and checkpoints in Phnom Penh. He pointed out that seven main roads and checkpoints included the University of Agriculture road, Russian Federation Boulevard, Road No. 271, Road No. 598, Road No. 6A, and Road No. 2. The target roads of the drink-driving where Monivong Boulevard, National Road No. 5, Preah Sisowath Boulevard, Kampuchea Krom Boulevard, Russian Federation Boulevard, Nordodom Boulevard, and Monivong Boulevard in Phnom Penh, according to Chiv Hark.

“Road traffic is still remaining a big problem for Cambodians. It is claiming lives of our people and affecting the economy and social developments. We all now must work hard to prevent road traffic accidents by respecting the traffic law and wear helmets whenever using the roads,” he told The Southeast Asia Weekly.

He added that road traffic accidents have an enormous impact on the social and economic welfare of Cambodia with an estimated annual cost of US$ 116 million, representing around 3 percent of the country GDP.


No comments: