Pchum Ben Festival Road Death Toll Drops

Twenty-six people died as a result of traffic crashes over the four-day Pchum Ben holiday period this year, a marked drop compared to last year, officials said on Monday.

Run Rothveasna, director of the Interior Ministry’s department of public order, said traffic accident reports during the holiday period had dropped 20 percent, from 82 incidents to 66.

Mr. Rothveasna said 26 people were killed, 86 were badly injured and 52 sustained minor injuries, compared to last year’s figures of 37, 104 and 56, respectively.

He attributed the drop to the new traffic law, which came into effect in January, and accompanying efforts to improve education and enforcement.

“The number of accidents decreased because the Interior Ministry has strengthened the implementation of the traffic law and the citizens also know about the laws,” he said.

A single accident in Pursat province accounted for 27 of the injuries, when a truck’s drunken driver took a turn too fast and caused the vehicle filled with passengers to flip over.

The driver, Som Pen, 50, spent Saturday afternoon on the banks of a waterfall in the province drinking with about 30 relatives, friends and neighbors before driving them all home at about 5:30 p.m., said Krakor district police chief Em Ron.

“The driver was drunk and driving very fast toward the bend in the road. Then his truck ran off the road causing it to flip upside down,” he said. “The driver kept going fast without respecting the road sign.”

The injured passengers were transported by ambulance to the provincial referral hospital, before 19 were then transferred to Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital and the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital, Mr. Ron said.

The driver, who was arrested by district police at the scene, was taken to Pursat Provincial Court on Monday, where court spokesman Heang Donin said he was charged with careless driving causing injury, a crime that carries a prison sentence of up to three years, depending on the circumstances.

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