S’ville Road Accident Kills At Least 19

At least nineteen people died and eight were seriously injured in a road accident on National Road 4 yesterday when a container truck slammed into a minivan carrying a group traveling to Siha­noukville to celebrate a wedding, police said.

The two vehicles collided at around 1 pm in Sihanoukville’s Muoy commune when the northbound truck attempted to overtake another vehicle and crossed into the southbound lane, striking the oncoming minivan, Preah Siha­nouk city police chief Mann Tour said.

“The two vehicles were not paying attention when driving and it has led to a very serious accident killing many people,” he said, ad­ding that at the time of the crash there was heavy rainfall in the area.

Preah Sihanouk province traffic police chief Prom Pov said there were 25 people traveling inside the minivan, of whom 18 died and seven were seriously injured. The driver of the container truck also perished in the accident, but another man riding in the vehicle survived. Among the dead were 10 men and nine women, all of them Cambodian.

“The driver of the truck died im­mediately after the crash, and we can still not remove his body from the wreckage,” he said yesterday afternoon, about two hours after the collision.

Mr Pov added that the injured had been sent to three private medical clinics nearby for treatment.

Road safety experts say that although preventative measures against road fatalities are improving—including more checkpoints testing for drunk drivers and steeper penalties for not wearing helmets—the number of deaths from road accidents is still on the rise.

According to Handicap Inter­na­tional, there were 1,717 fatalities on Cambodia’s roads in 2009 compared to 1,638 the previous year. Figures for 2010 are still not available.

Late last month, four people died and nine others were seriously injured when a minivan carrying 12 people on their way to a wedding party crashed into a tuk-tuk on National Road 4 in Preah Sihanouk province.

Over Chinese New Year last month, 29 people died in 103 traffic accidents, according to government figures.

A medic at one of the private clinics that took in victims from yesterday’s crash said that the patient had already been transported to Vietnam for more specialized care.

“He broke his back, legs, ankle and wrist. All of his bones were coming out of his skin,” she said.

Sann Socheata, road safety program manager for Handicap In­ternational, said that her organization was in the process of im­ple­menting a new project with the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation to implement better controls on vehicle safety and the standard of drivers.

“Big transport companies have been involved in serious crashes very often,” she said, adding that companies must improve the process by which they test drivers’ eyesight and driving skills before they are hired.

Ms Socheata said that, by law, vehicles should not carry more passengers than is intended by the vehicle’s design.

“This is one of the main priorities for the Ministry of Interior to enforce,” she said, adding that the enforcement of laws on speeding, drunk driving and wearing helmets also needed to be better implemented.

In January, Prime Minister Hun Sen criticized the private trans­port firm So Ngoun for reckless driving and advised the company to improve its vehicles.

According to Handicap Interna­tional, although an estimated $1 million is spent on road safety per year by the government, accidents end up costing $248 million yearly.

(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren)

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