Five people died and two were injured in Kompong Cham province’s Chhoeung Prey district yesterday after a large truck collided head-on with a minivan, police said.
The accident is only the latest in a number of horrific crashes that have killed scores of passengers in recent months.
Just how deadly Cambodia’s roads have become is apparent in new government statistics showing that 1,076 people died in traffic in the first six months of 2011, a 14 percent jump in fatalities from the first half of 2010.
A government official said yesterday that an average of five people die in traffic every day, while a road safety expert called the reported spike in deaths “alarming.”
Heng Vuthy, Choeung Prey district police chief, said witnesses saw a truck loaded with goods from Vietnam trying to overtake a car on National Road 6 in Soutip commune around 6 am, when it collided with an oncoming minivan carrying seven people.
The minivan driver and four passengers died on impact, while two others who were seriously injured are being treated at Kompong Cham Provincial Referral Hospital.
“The victims were aged between 23 and 60 years old,” he said.
Mr Vuthy said the truck driver had been identified as Pri Samnang from Kompong Cham province, but he had fled the scene and police would now issue a warrant for his arrest
A number of accidents recently have left whole groups of travelers dead. Nineteen people died in an accident in Preah Sihanouk province in March when a container truck slammed into a minivan, while four people died in the same province in February when a minivan collided with a tuk-tuk loaded with petrol.
In March, nine people were killed in Kompong Thom province after a truck hit their trailer, and in Kompong Speu, a car crash killed four in January.
Preap Chanvibol, chief of the Interior Ministry’s road safety department, said traffic deaths have spiked at 1,076 during the first half of this year, an increase of 135 compared to the same period last year, when 941 people died in traffic.
“The first six months of this year, deaths have increased because of high speed accidents and drivers drinking alcohol,” he said.
Between 2009 and 2010, traffic fatalities increased from 1,717 to 1,816.
Mr Chanvibol said that on average, about five people die in traffic every day, while between 20 and 30 people are injured.
He said the jump in serious accidents this year worried officials.
“We are concerned about these serious accidents…which have left five to 10 people dead throughout the provinces,” he said, adding that police have begun stepping up traffic law enforcement.
Sann Socheata, road safety manager at Handicap International, said she had no data at hand to confirm a spike in traffic deaths this year. However, she stressed that the Interior Ministry’s numbers “would be a huge increase. If it’s accurate, that’s really alarming.”
She said the rise in fatalities was a result of Cambodia’s improved road network and the growing number of vehicles, adding that a drop in helmet use at night and drunk driving were major direct causes of death.
Ms Socheata said more should be done to improve road safety, adding that the rising human and financial costs of traffic accidents were “a big issue to alert the government and everybody.”
“From year to year, the number of deaths from crashes keep increasing, injuries too,” she said, adding that damage from accidents also keeps mounting and totaled $248 million and $279 million in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
By comparison, funds reserved for road safety remained small, she said, as the government and its donors together spent about $1 million on road safety in 2009.