Traffic accidents in Phnom Penh have killed 116 people and injured 1,069 so far this year, an increase over the same period last year despite installation of new traffic lights at major intersections, a police official said Sunday.
“Most of the accidents were caused by drivers who did not obey the traffic law,” including drivers who drove on the wrong side of the road or drove while drinking, said Kim Yidet, chief of municipal traffic police. “Many of the victims are disabled as a result,” he said.
The number of deaths is slightly higher than last year, but the number of injuries has nearly doubled: In 2001, 111 deaths and 541 injuries were reported by police, according to Chev Hak, deputy chief of the accident investigation section at the municipal traffic police department.
The number of vehicles on Phnom Penh’s streets has skyrocketed in recent years, and improved roads have allowed faster, more dangerous driving than before.
The municipality has tried to control traffic by installing stoplights, but these have had little effect on the chaos, Kim Yidet said. “Drivers don’t understand the traffic laws very well,” he said.
Reuben McCarthy of Handicap International said that while accidents are probably increasing, the jump from last year was more likely due to better data-gathering and analysis efforts by police.
An official is now employed to catalog and consolidate accident reports, he said. “What they’re doing is very good. They’ve increased their capacity to actually catch incidents that happen…. [But] it will be some time before surveillance is stable enough” to truly judge increases in accidents.
Ideally, he said, data gatherers would be stationed all over the country recording road injuries, as they are for land mines under the Cambodia Mine/UXO Victim Information System managed by Handicap International and the Cambodian Red Cross.