Temporary roadside checkpoints set up along highways in Battambang province in response to an increase in fatal traffic accidents there have revealed that about 80 percent of the commercial night drivers tested were using methamphetamine, according to officials.
Since the beginning of last month, nearly 30 people have died in traffic accidents in the province—a stark increase from the 32 in the first seven months of the year, deputy provincial police chief Koy Heang said on Sunday.
“The Ministry of Interior’s department of public order instructed our police officers to investigate the traffic accidents” beginning in May, when the numbers started to increase, said Chet Vanny, another deputy provincial police chief.
After setting up temporary checkpoints where drivers are made to take urine tests, “we found that eight out of 10 night drivers had used drug substances,” he said, noting that the majority of drivers were behind the wheel of commercial buses or trucks.
According to Mr. Heang, “yama”—a pill form of methamphetamine—was the main drug of concern, as it helped drivers stay awake during long hours on the road.
“When they use drugs before driving, they drive very fast and cause accidents,” Mr. Vanny said.
Upon finding that drivers were under the influence, however, police only informed them of the potential harm of driving while under the influence and sent them on their way, he said.
“We know that it is wrong to let them go,” Mr. Vanny said, adding that the drivers were required to thumbprint an agreement not to use drugs again while driving. He claimed officials did not know how they might prosecute the drivers.
Still, he said, repeat offenders would face the law.
Run Rothveasna, director of the Interior Ministry’s department of public order, said he was unaware that suspected drug users were being let go.
“If the police find the drivers positive for a drug substance, they shouldn’t let them go. It is illegal,” he said, adding that he was “not responsible” for enforcement, as it fell under the purview of anti-drug police.