Health Officials Lament Lack of Traffic Safety

Only 8 percent of those riding motorbikes in Cambodia wear a helmet, according to a Ministry of Health survey of nearly 50,000 riders conducted a few weeks ago.

“Too often road safety is treated as a transportation issue, not a public health issue,” Man Bun Heng, secretary of state at the Ministry of Health, said last week.

The survey was conducted in preparation for the World Health Organization’s World Health Day on Wednesday, during which traffic accidents will be identified as a great global killer.

Several high-profile traffic accidents have rocked Phnom Penh lately. In October, Nhim Sophea, a nephew of Prime Minister Hun Sen, was involved in a traffic accident that killed one person. A man known as Sam Doeun then allegedly shot dead two people who witnessed the accident. On Sun­day, a motorbike collided with car belonging to Fun­cinpec Sena­tor Nhiek Bun Chhay. Two persons on the motorbike were killed.

Asia accounts for about 60 percent of global traffic deaths de­spite having only 16 percent of the world’s vehicles, according to the WHO. On Cambodia’s roads, officials said accidents killed 824 people last year and the death rate for traffic accidents is increasing by almost 30 percent annually.

“We tend to be fatalistic about road accidents, but these are rarely random, uncontrollable events,” said Dr Hisashi Ogawa, a regional WHO official.

Preventive measures that could be taken to reduce traffic deaths include wearing safety helmets, using seat belts, setting speed limits, punishing drunken drivers, improving vehicle standards and improving road design.

A new traffic law, awaiting consideration by the National As­semb­ly, clearly states the blood alcohol concentration limit and mandates the use of helmets and seat belts.

Trac Thai Seing, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, said more drivers are speeding as more roads are resurfaced.“If we are not careful, in one second it will kill our children and family. Then it will make us slow in developing the country,” he said.


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