Road Deaths Up Last Year, Number Likely to Rise

The number of fatalities from traffic accidents on Cambodia’s roads increased by just seven in 2013, according to data released Thursday, but traffic safety groups said the actual figure is likely to be higher.

The number of deaths countrywide as a result of traffic accidents from November 11, 2012, to November 10, 2013, was 1,901, compared to 1,894 during the same period between 2011 and 2012, said Preap Chanvibol, director of land transportation at the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation.

While the number of deaths increased by just seven, the total number of accidents also increased by just 17 from 4,305 cases to 4,322, while the total number of severe injuries decreased by 183 from 4,338 in 2012 to 4,205, according to the ministry’s figures, which were provided by the traffic police.

Cheav Hak, chief of Phnom Penh traffic police, confirmed the police numbers.

“The total increase in deaths is only seven…this is the figure we totaled. It’s not a lot compared to last year,” he said.

However, officials at Handicap International Belgium said that they expected the number of deaths and injuries on the roads to increase once the police statistics are combined with data from their own organizations, and the Ministry of Health.

“I cannot say these [figures] are 100 percent accurate. This is only their data. We need to compare this data with our data and verify the accuracy of the data,” said Ear Chariya, road safety program manager at Handicap International Belgium.

Mr. Chariya said the traffic police’s decision earlier this year to halt enforcement of the traffic law countrywide from around the time of the election in July could have led to more accidents as drivers flouted traffic rules.

“We have seen from our observation that helmet wearing since the July election has practically stopped because there’s no enforcement. Helmets help reduce deaths by 40 percent and severe injuries by about 70 percent,” he said.

Mr. Chariya said he expects to release his organization’s data on traffic accidents and deaths by April.

Sao Sovanratnak, national professional officer in charge of road safety and injury prevention at the World Health Organization, said that lack of enforcement of the traffic law “will increase the consequences.”

(Additional reporting by Joshua Wilwohl)

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