Traffic accidents decreased slightly between 2008 and 2009 but the number of deaths nevertheless rose during that time, officials said yesterday.
Him Yan, director of road traffic at the Interior Ministry, said yesterday that there were 5,828 accidents in 2009–193 fewer than in 2008. However, deaths rose from 1,572 to 1,654.
“The number of deaths increased because of high speeds,” said Mr Yan. “They drive fast and drunk at night. When an accident happens, it kills them.”
Speeding, said Mr Yan, causes nearly 50 percent of all traffic deaths. Ignoring right of way, drunk driving and carelessly overtaking follow at 13, 12, and 10 percent respectively, he said.
Kandal province posted the most accidents last year, followed by Phnom Penh, Kompong Cham, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey.
In 2009, the Interior Ministry launched a nationwide campaign requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets and use rearview mirrors, and that car passengers use seatbelts. Provincial and municipal traffic police as well as road safety experts interviewed yesterday credited the effort with reducing accidents, but said more had to be done.
“The plan of the road traffic authorities from year to year is decreasing accidents in terms of casualties, but the number of deaths is going up,” said Kim Pagna, road safety project manager at the Cambodian Red Cross, adding that the bulk of drunk driving accidents happen at night, after most police officers have knocked off work.
“There needs to be more police work mainly at night stopping drunk driving,” he said.
Mr Yan said the nation’s traffic police officers, who are more than abundant during daylight hours, will expand their focus this year to: “other problems such as driver licenses, traffic signs, driving techniques and transportation safety,” but they have no plans to work at night, when many drunk driving-related traffic accidents occur.
In addition to these efforts, a strict motorbike driving licensing system will go into effect sometime this year, though Mr Yan said a date is not yet set.
“Traffic police will not fine drivers who drive without a license but will arrest them and send them to court. They will [face] prison from six days to one month.”
On Sunday, three people were killed and 14 seriously injured in Siem Reap province when a speeding pickup truck blew a tire on National Road 67 and flipped multiple times.
“The driver was going too fast and the truck was overloaded,” said Varin district deputy police chief, Nhea Phy, when asked why there were so many casualties.
(Additional reporting by Abby Seiff)