Road traffic accidents killed 540 people in the first three months of 2013—an increase of 10 deaths compared to the same period last year, according to a report by the Interior Ministry published Wednesday on the National Police website.
The total number of accidents and resulting injuries, excluding deaths, was down slightly on last year, according to the report. There were 1,163 accidents from January 1 to the end of March—a 3 percent decrease compared with 2012—while injuries dropped 5 percent to 1,697 people from 1,783 last year.
Forty-four foreign nationals have been involved in accidents so far this year, nine of whom died and 17 of whom were seriously injured, the report says.
The overwhelming majority of accidents were due to speeding, drunken driving and carelessness, according to the report.
In all of 2012, 1,894 people died on the roads in Cambodia, according to the Interior Ministry, and road-safety NGOs have long called for the government to take more action to reduce road fatalities and to promote helmet use.
A new traffic law has been drafted that will require all motorcycle passengers as well as drivers to wear helmets. However, this law has yet to be passed. But with the traffic police widely derided for bribery, NGOs also say implementation of existing laws is key.
“We know in Cambodia that those most vulnerable in traffic accidents are motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians, who make up 82 percent of all fatalities,” said environmental engineer Steven Iddings, who heads the World Health Organization’s traffic safety team in Cambodia.
“There is no question we know where the risks are,” Mr. Iddings said, adding that educating this large percentage of vulnerable road users about the dangers of speeding, alcohol consumption and helmet use is key to reducing accidents on the country’s roads.
Yet it is equally important that the government enforces the law, he said. “There are just not enough police patrols at night—even police will tell you that,” Mr. Iddings said.