Almost 12 people died due to traffic accidents on average over each of the five days of the Khmer New Year break from April 13 to 17, according to police.
There were 134 reported traffic accidents with 59 deaths and 238 injuries over the five-day break, during which most Cambodians take their chances on the country’s dangerous roads to head back to their family homes, a traffic police report said.
It was a 26 percent rise in road deaths over last year’s Khmer New Year holiday, the report noted, with a majority of the accidents attributed to speeding, incautious overtaking, drivers not respecting dividing lines and also drink driving.
By comparison, 513 people were killed in traffic accidents over the first three months of the year, according to official figures — an average of 5.7 per day.
At a Traffic Safety Committee meeting before the new year break, Interior Minister Sar Kheng had said the large number of deaths over the first quarter was also an increase on last year, and called for stronger implementation of traffic laws.
Transport Minister Sun Chanthol said at the April 9 meeting he believed most accidents occur because many people still did not properly know traffic laws. He also promised more widespread checking of driving licenses after the Khmer New Year period — in particular for operators of large vehicles, such as freight trucks.
These vehicles would not be allowed pass if police caught drivers without the appropriate class of license or holding fake licenses, Chanthol pledged.
Besides the human costs of road deaths, traffic accidents cost Cambodia’s economy more than $35 million each year, Traffic Ministry officials told the meeting. A better understanding of laws, more consistent implementation, more frequent inspections of road quality and better signs were needed, they said.
About 77 percent of the 513 people killed in the first quarter of the year according to the Interior Ministry figures were drivers of commuter motorcycles with engine sizes of below 125CC. In January 2016, such drivers were exempted from the need to hold licenses under the new traffic law introduced at the start of that year.
Institute of Road Safety acting head Kong Ratanak said lessons on the traffic law could be introduced to the nation’s schools. He also called for a reversal of the January 2016 exemption of drivers of motorbikes under 125CC from the need to hold a driving license — thus forcing all Cambodians to pass driving tests.
“If they have driving licenses, they at least have participated in driving tests for their driving license and learned about safe driving methods,” Ratanak said, adding that it would promote wider knowledge of the laws. “These drivers also must know about the procedures and precautions and they have to behave in a safe way.”
(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)