Road Accidents Decline Amid Less Traffic, Stricter Penalties

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Traffic congestion in Phnom Penh on September 15, 2020. (VOD)
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The number of traffic accidents dropped 23 percent in the first nine months of the year compared to the same period last year, according to government figures, with an expert suggesting that there had been fewer cars on the road and that stricter penalties were working as a deterrent.

According to Interior Ministry figures, there were 2,430 road accidents causing 1,257 deaths and 3,663 injuries this year, down from 3,159, 1,521 and 4,721, respectively, for the same period last year.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng asked in a Facebook post that all drivers be careful and officers of all levels work to maintain traffic safety.

Institute for Road Safety director Kong Ratanak said he welcomed the decline, and suggested it was because there were fewer people traveling and more police enforcement of road rules.

The global coronavirus outbreak earlier this year caused international tourism to collapse and put a damper on travel within the country. Phnom Penh saw quieter streets, and the government restricted inter-provincial travel in April as it postponed the Khmer New Year holiday out of public health concerns.

Traffic fines were also raised in May, setting penalties three to five times higher than previous fines. Ratanak said the stricter measures were pushing more drivers to respect the law.

However, Ratanak said the official figures should be taken with a grain of salt, since they relied on traffic officers reporting cases accurately to their superiors. He said it was unlikely that information from every accident was being recorded.

“If [authorities] strengthen the [enforcement of] the Traffic Law daily, and do it with transparency, I think [accidents] will continue to decline,” he said, adding that he also wanted to see younger drivers be more careful on the roads.

Most traffic deaths were for people aged between 15 and 40, he said.

“Behaviors within these nine months have seen some positive changes, but it’s not yet enough,” he said. “I would like to ask our people, especially our youth, to please respect the Traffic Law.”

National Police spokesperson Chhay Kim Khoeun could not be reached.

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