Road Safety Groups Call for More Effective Laws

Road safety advocates concerned by the rising death toll from traffic accidents have called on the government to take immediate action to reverse the trend by pushing through legislation that would help improve road safety.

Last Friday, more than 100 private sector, civil society and international organizations endorsed a statement imploring the government to step up efforts to address an “appallingly dangerous situation,” including pushing through draft legislation requiring all mo­torcycle passengers to wear helmets.

“Motorcycle helmets are proven to reduce the risk of serious injury by 69 percent and of death by 42 percent in a crash,” said Kim Pagna, country director of the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, “but fewer than 10 percent of passengers wear helmets.”

Almost 700 people died in the first five months of this year on the country’s roads, while annually road deaths average almost 2,000, with a further 15,000 people being injured. Motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians are the most vulnerable to road accidents, accounting for more than 80 percent of fatalities.

“The real tragedy is that these deaths could be prevented,” Mr. Pagna said.

One incentive to reducing road accidents is the potential savings to a government from averting costly road crashes, which exact a heavy toll in terms of medical treatment and loss of human resources.

According to a recent study by Handicap International and Hasselt University in Belgium, the potential saving to Cambodia could reach up to $1.23 billion if the government reaches its target of reducing road fatalities by 50 percent by 2020.

“[It] will require an investment of around 10 percent of that amount in order to reach that target [yet] this cost-benefit analysis illustrates the continuing social and economic importance of working to reduce the number of crashes, injuries and deaths on Cambodian roads,” said Handic­ap International program manager Ear Chariya.

Another concern is that without proper consultation, road safety problems are actually being exacerbated by new road-building projects, especially in rural areas, where better roads are enabling drivers to significantly increase speeds.

“Roads that are being rehabilitated or built, often with aid funding, will have many more crashes than would result if road safety was considered at the planning and design stage,” Mr. Chariya said.

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