The number of traffic accidents and traffic-related fatalities across the country increased dramatically last year, officials at the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation said Tuesday.
The ministry recorded 3,013 traffic accidents and 535 fatalities nationwide in 2002—a marked increase over the 2,699 accidents and 439 deaths reported in 2001. In addition, 1,719 cars and trucks, and 3,500 motorcycles were destroyed in crashes last year.
Peou Maly, deputy director of the ministry’s Transportation Department, said drivers under the influence of alcohol and those driving at high speed were responsible for the majority of crashes.
Kim Yidet, director of the municipal traffic police, said the number of accidents in Phnom Penh also has taken a worrying upswing. There were 728 crashes and 129 deaths in the past year, compared with 643 accidents and 113 fatalities in 2001.
In the first three months of this year alone, traffic police in Phnom Penh recorded 116 accidents and 30 deaths, Kim Yidet said.
Most of the victims were between 35 and 45 years old, he added.
The new statistics are a disappointment for transport officials. “I hoped that the figure for traffic accidents would decrease in Phnom Penh this year, because we have been strengthening traffic police along the street to save drivers from accidents,” Kim Yidet said.
Peou Maly attributed the rise in accidents to the growing number of vehicles on Phnom Penh’s narrow, and often uneven, roads. “Our streets are very small, but the number of vehicles is increasing,” he said.
Meanwhile, efforts to improve vehicle registration are progressing well, officials said this week. Nhem Saran, director of the municipal public works and transportation department, said growing numbers of Phnom Penh residents are applying for vehicle license plates. Nhem Saran attributed the increase to the fact that more traffic police are deployed on the streets to apprehend unlicensed drivers.
Peou Maly said that 410,027 vehicles were registered at the ministry in 2002—a substantial increase over the 383,990 vehicles registered in 2001.
Despite this optimism, both Kim Yidet and Peou Maly expressed concern about the progress of the new traffic law, which has yet to be passed by the National Assembly.
The law would help traffic police enforce laws against drunken driving and speeding, Peou Maly said.