Despite public education campaigns extolling the benefits and ease of obtaining a driver’s license, government officials said few motorists have signed on to earn the necessary permit in the past two years.
Ou Thon Sal of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport said only about 8,400 out of an estimated 700,000 drivers in Phnom Penh have completed a government-run course since it opened to the public in late 2006. He added that the number of participants actually declined by about 1,500 from 2007 to 2008.
“We see a decrease in the number [of people taking the course] between 2007 and 2008,” Mr Ou Thon Sal, who is chief of the ministry’s driving license and traffic safety division, said Sunday.
He said few people take the class because drivers are rarely fined or reprimanded for not having the document. The day-long course, which costs $10, teaches motorists about the rules of the road and proper driving technique and requires all students pass a verbal and driving test. By law, all motorists must have a license issued by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to legally operate a vehicle.
Phnom Penh traffic police chief Tin Prasoer said taking the course is necessary for keeping roadways safe throughout the country. But he said that perhaps the low number of people getting a driver’s license could be due to drivers’ hectic schedules. “Sometimes they are too busy, so they don’t want to attend the class,” Mr Tin Prasoer said. “That is careless.”
He said police will begin cracking down on unlicensed drivers following the three-day Khmer New Year holiday, which starts today.
“First we will persuade them to learn and get the driving license, and after that we will enforce the law by fining people who drive without a license,” he added.
Nop Ron, a 32-year-old motorbike taxi driver, said the course is unnecessary and that he would not attend.
“I think it is a waste of time to attend for a motorbike. I’d rather go directly to the car driving class,” he said.
Another motorbike taxi driver, Leng Sony, said he found the cost of the class too expensive to make it worth attending. Still, he found the idea of driving classes to be generally positive.
“It is cheap for the rich, but it is expensive for the poor,” the 38-year-old said, adding, “All the people should attend the driving class since it helps to cut down [on] traffic accidents.”
Mr Ou Thon Sal said the fee was not excessive.
“I think $10 for the course, document and service is not that expensive,” he said. “If they want, some poor people like motodop drivers who think it is expensive, they can save a 1,000 riel per day so they can get the license.”