Around 1,000 people gathered outside the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh on Tuesday morning for the official launch of the new traffic law.
Public Works and Transport Minister Sun Chanthol said the launch signaled that authorities will begin implementing the new traffic law, which was signed by King Norodom Sihamoni in February.
“Today is an alarm to wake all people to drive carefully and respectfully,” he said.
Sun Chanthol said that the vast majority of road accidents in Cambodia—where four people died on the country’s roads each day last year—are due to human error.
The Asian Development Bank reported that, in 2003, Cambodia lost $116 million, equivalent to 3 percent of GDP, as a result of the financial cost of traffic accidents, he said.
Cabinet Minister Sok An, who presided over the ceremony, admitted that some aspects of the law, which includes a penalty point system on drivers’ licenses, will “take five years to implement.”
According to the new law, drivers of vehicles over 49cc are required to be licensed, and each license will have 12 points.
Drivers will be docked points for moving violations, with one point being deducted for violations like driving without a helmet, while more serious offenses like driving while intoxicated can cost up to six points. If a driver loses all of his points, he loses his license, and won’t be allowed to get a new one for at least six months.
Sok An said that the point system being developed is to ensure that people respect the new traffic law.
“If they abuse the law, points will be marked on their licenses,” he said. “People have to respect the law.”
Keo Savin, director of the transport department at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said that drivers still have time to enroll in classes and get their licenses before authorities will begin fining.
More than 500,000 motorbikes are registered with the ministry, but only 2,000 drivers have obtained licenses, said Keo Savin, which indicates that law enforcement officials must disseminate information about the law first and foremost.
“Competent people have to be gentle in implementing the law,” he said, adding that it was uncertain when motorists would start being fined, as the tickets that will be issued by police have not been created yet.
Jean Francois Michel, coordinator of operations for Handicap International, said that as Cambodia develops, new challenges arise for authorities who seek to implement the law.
In many cases, more paved roads facilitate speeding, he said, adding that it is of the utmost importance that officials watch out for this and take the law seriously.
“These coming years will be particularly critical in applying the new law,” he said.
Motorbike taxi driver Kim Sithon, 36, said outside the stadium that officials have been talking about implementing the new law for weeks, but things have yet to change on the roads.
“I doubt if the new law will be effectively enforced,” he said.