Although the long-awaited Land Traffic Law was passed by the National Assembly in December, a police official said Tuesday that the government would not begin enforcing it for another five or six months.
The law is set to bring tougher penalties for many traffic offenses—including drunk driving—limit the number of passengers on a motorbike to one adult and one child, and require all motorbike passengers to wear helmets.
Ty Long, deputy chief of the National Police’s public order department, said Tuesday that the Interior Ministry was in the process of drafting a set of sub-decrees that would allow the law to be implemented.
“We need time, five to six months, to disseminate the new traffic law before implementing the law,” he said.
The first of the sub-decrees, expected to be finished by the end of next month, will allow police to fine motorbike drivers whose passengers are not wearing helmets, according to Major General Long. The fine for not wearing a helmet is also set to increase from 5,000 riel (about $1.25) to 15,000 riel (about $3.75).
“It will be challenging to implement the law, but we want to change people’s behavior so that when they ride motorbikes, they wear their helmets,” Maj. Gen. Long said.
Independent road safety consultant Ear Chariya said the new law was a positive step, but that the ministry should consider fining passengers directly, rather than drivers.
“It will affect the jobs of moto-taxi drivers if they are required to be responsible for the punishment, because they cannot force their riders to wear helmets, and riders will just go take other motorbikes,” Mr. Chariya said.
Moto-taxi drivers interviewed Tuesday also said the new rule was unfair, but that they would follow it, albeit reluctantly.
“I will buy a helmet for passengers, but they can use it or not use it. It’s their right, and sometimes they won’t want to use it because many people will be using it and it will smell bad,” said Kong Eng, 40, who was waiting for passengers on Street 240 in Phnom Penh.
Pov Chheang, 42, a moto-taxi driver who works the streets near Chaktomuk High School on Norodom Boulevard, said he was afraid the impending sub-decree would simply bring a new opportunity for police to crack down on “small guys” like him.
“Motodops do not have much money. We earn only $5 per day. Passengers should be responsible for themselves,” he said.