NGO Study: Traffic Accidents, Injuries Rising

One of Cambodia’s NGOs best known for land mine victim assistance is broadening it focus to include traffic safety in the face of deteriorating road conditions.

A seminar on road safety in Phnom Penh held Thursday by Handicap International Belgium unveiled grim statistics for the city’s motorists.

More than 80 percent of traffic accidents in Phnom Penh involve motorcycles and 60 percent of those injured suffer head injuries, many of which are permanently disabling.

The simple reason for this, participants found, is that nine out of 10 motorcyclists don’t wear helmets.

The seminar, held at World Vision headquarters, drew together police, doctors, safety officials, engineers and others interested in making the roads safer.

“In Phnom Penh and Cam­bo­dia, the increasing number of [traffic] victims became of great con­­cern to us,” said Isabelle Plu­mat, HI’s director in Cambodia.

With road accidents on the rise due to more vehicles jostling for space on the city’s few good roads, participants agreed a good place to start is to convince motorcyclists to wear helmets.

The NGO completed two surveys: a roadside count of 4,150 motorcycles, and interviews with 161 motorcyclists, some of whom wore helmets and some who did not.

Christa Weichert, HI’s road safety adviser, said the first survey found that 91 percent of motorcyclists do not wear helmets.

Predictably, helmet usage varied widely with age: less than one in five of those 20 years old or younger wore helmets, while helmet use grew steadily as drivers aged.

“The reasons could be that young people don’t have much money, or that they think nothing will happen to them,” she said.

Of those who wore helmets, 65 percent said they did to protect their heads from injury; 21 percent to protect them from sun, rain and dust; and 14 percent because they or someone they knew had an accident.

Those who didn’t wear helmets said they would if it were the law (40 percent); if helmets were cheaper (24 percent); to keep the sun, rain, dust off (21 percent); if their friends started wearing them (6 percent); or if they were told to do so (3 percent).

To reduce head injuries, the HI survey team concluded, motor taxi drivers should be given two helmets each—one for the driver, one for the passenger—and a major ad campaign should be launched to convince all motorcyclists to wear them.



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