The level of traffic fatalities last year remained virtually unchanged, declining from 1,654 in 2009 to 1,649, the Interior Ministry said yesterday. But a traffic safety NGO said the number of deaths likely increased as improved roads have encouraged more traffic. Him Yan, the ministry’s director of public order, attributed the decrease of five deaths to increased traffic safety enforcement outside of Phnom Penh.
“We have practiced enforcement of the traffic law to concentrate on traffic accidents and punishing someone who does not respect the law,” he said.
But Jeroen Stol, country director at Handicap International, said the number of nationwide deaths was likely higher than in 2009. The Interior Ministry numbers do not include some death data collected by the Health Ministry, he said. Still, he said, despite government attempts to increase enforcement, Cambodia will not see decreases in traffic accidents for years to come.
“Many more people have more access to motorized vehicles, and the infrastructure is ever improving and increasing. So that invites higher speeds. But what is still lagging behind, one of the main reasons, is the notion of safe road behavior by the general population,” he said.
His organization is due to complete its report on traffic fatalities in April, but he said preliminary data indicated that Phnom Penh saw a decrease in fatalities, likely due to increased enforcement in areas like helmet wearing and drunk driving.
Comparative data on Phnom Penh traffic deaths was unavailable, but Chev Hak, Phnom Penh deputy traffic police chief, said there were 433 motorcycle accidents, 162 deaths and 666 injuries in 2010. He said in 2010, police stopped 618 motorcycle drivers without helmets and stopped 114 people suspected of drunk driving.
Sea Huong, undersecretary of state for the Health Ministry, said traffic accidents in the past several years had “dramatically increased.”
“These incidents are blocking national development as it [has] taken many lives and disabled a lot of people who were active in the [work force],” he said.