Road Safety Hit by Suspension of Law Enforcement

The continuing suspension of traffic-law enforcement by traffic police since the run-up to July’s national election has had a detrimental effect on road safety practices, a senior Ministry of Interior official admitted Tuesday.

Road safety groups have already expressed concern that the decision to halt enforcement of the traffic law countrywide from around the time of the election in July would cause drivers to flout the rules, leading to more accidents, though preliminary figures from the Ministry of Interior for 2013 show just a small increase in accidents and road deaths—1,901, compared to 1,894 in 2012.

At a meeting of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Global Road Safety Program—a five-year donor project begun in 2010 to reduce road deaths and serious injuries in Cambodia—representatives from groups involved in the initiative reiterated their frustration that efforts were being undermined by the current impunity for traffic law violations.

Him Yan, the director of the Ministry of Interior’s public order department, admitted that though much success had been achieved since the project began in 2010, the current climate was not augmenting that success.

“We have been looking for opportunities to resume traffic law enforcement…and our plan for 2014 is that we will be committed to enforcing the law much more than last year,” he said.

Steven Iddings, road safety and injury prevention team leader with the World Health Organization, said at the meeting that the lack of enforcement—and the government’s failure to pass long-awaited new traffic laws—are both major problems that need to be addressed.

“Since the run-up to the election…enforcement has largely not taken place,” he said, adding that a significant drop in helmet wearing from May to September has been recorded, dropping from 63 percent to 47, which coincides directly with the pre- and post-election period.

Mr. Yan from the Ministry of Interior denied that the suspension of traffic law enforcement was political, but declined to elaborate on the reasons for maintaining the ban.

“Right now some of our officers around the country can fine drivers, but there is not a full widespread enforcement of the laws as we are waiting for approval from the Ministry of Interior and the National Assembly,” he said after the meeting.

“Full enforcement will recommence, but I cannot tell you now exactly when that will be.”

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