A traffic police crackdown on drunk driving started Friday, with a checkpoint on Phnom Penh’s riverside testing 58 car and motorcycle drivers, police said.
The one car driver who was found to be over the legal alcohol limit was fined 12,000 riel, or about $3, and three motorcycle riders were each fined 6,000 riel, or about $1.50, while their families were called to take them home, said Chev Hak, deputy chief of the municipal traffic police.
“In the future, we will test more people across the country but we do not have enough equipment yet. This is the first step,” Mr Hak said. Traffic police are using 23 breathalyzers to target Phnom Penh as well as Kandal and Kompong Speu provinces, he added.
Sok Sam Ang, who was found to be over the limit on Friday, said that he had only had two cans of beer with friends before being caught. “It’s up to the police,” Mr Sam Ang said. “Next time I won’t do like that again.”
Another driver, Alex Hales, said that he did not object to the measures as long as fines went to strengthen enforcement, not into the back pockets of traffic police officers.
“Rather than having random one-off checkpoints, these should be part of a consistent sustained campaign,” Mr Hales said.
Drivers registering 0.8 grams of alcohol or more per liter of blood can be sentenced to between six days and six months in prison, and fined between 25,000 riel, or about $6.25, and 1 million riel, or about $250. Also drivers registering 0.5 grams of alcohol per liter of blood or above can be fined between 6,000 riel and 25,000 riel depending on their type of vehicle.
Drunk driving is the second leading cause of death on Cambodian roads after speeding and contributed to 17 percent of 1,717 reported fatalities last year, according to the Road Crash and Victim Information System.
Ryan Duly, Mekong program manager at Global Road Safety Partnership, said drinking and driving was a huge but hidden problem in Cambodia, with research showing that if drivers do not feel drunk they think it is safe to drive.
(Additional reporting by Hul Reaksmey)