Sixty-three people died and 572 were injured in 359 Phnom Penh traffic accidents during the first six months of this year, according to a report released by the Municipal Office of Traffic Police.
Son Kha, an administrative officer for the municipal police, said speeding caused almost half the wrecks, while the rest were blamed on improper passing, driving in the wrong lane, drunken driving, unsafe vehicles and disregarding traffic signs.
The report also stated that there were 35 more traffic accidents this year than in the same period in 2001. But Reuben McCarthy of Belgium Handicap International, an NGO devoted to preventing disabilities, said that the statistical increase could be attributed to police keeping better records this year than in the past.
However, McCarthy said the numbers probably did grow and added that he expects the trend to continue as Cambodia gets better roads and more vehicles.
A 1999 report on Cambodian roads, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, said poor road conditions had kept traffic fatalities down as they had prohibited people from driving too fast.
Municipal officials could not give an estimate for the amount of road work done in the past several years, but the city’s major arteries have been improved and the pace and volume of traffic has increased noticeably.
Po Samnang, chief of the National Culture and Social Moral Center, said he has written the Ministry of Interior asking it to impose stiffer fines for speeding and other traffic violations. He said another major cause of Phnom Penh’s traffic problem is the high number of drivers under age 18 on the road.
By Po Samnang’s estimate, 20 percent of the city’s taxi drivers are boys who have just learned to drive their father’s cars. He said youthful exuberance and inexperience have caused disorder in the streets.