Here’s news that’s probably clear to anyone who’s been on Phnom Penh’s streets lately: It can be dangerous out there.
The latest statistics from the capital’s traffic police prove it. Traffic accidents and fatalities have risen sharply in the past year, so much so that the statistics for the first 10 months of this year already are higher than for all of 1997, traffic police said.
From January to October, 99 people died in vehicle accidents, compared with 88 in all during 1997, Municipal Traffic Police Chief El Samnang said.
Total traffic accidents also are rising. Municipal traffic police recorded 495 accidents in the first 10 months of this year. In all of 1997, there were 429 cases.
Authorities recorded 399 serious injuries as the result of vehicle accidents in the first 10 months of 1998, a steep increase over the 263 serious injuries for all of 1997, El Samnang said.
Tracking traffic statistics is a difficult task because many drivers do not report accidents. However, El Samnang said it is clear that the number of accidents and fatalities has been increasing steadily over the past few years.
Efforts to try to control traffic in the capital have resulted in several new traffic lights at various intersections, accompanied by public education campaigns. However, First Deputy Governor Chea Sophara conceded Wednesday that the city’s efforts have not worked.
“Although we are trying hard to broadcast on TV and radio to try to get people to respect traffic laws, many drivers and passengers still do not,” Chea Sophara said.
A particular problem is drunken driving, El Samnang said. There are no exact figures, but the traffic police chief estimated as many as 30 percent of nighttime drivers have been drinking.
Another reason for the increase in accidents are more and faster vehicles on the roads, El Samnang said.
The Ministry of Public Works reported there are now 35,656 cars, 5,317 trucks and 26,898 motorcycles legally registered in Phnom Penh. The ministry suspects the real number of vehicles on the street is much higher because so many people do not register legally.
Even bicycle accidents are slightly up this year. For all of 1997, seven bicycles were seriously damaged or destroyed in traffic accidents. But already this year, eight bicycles have been reported seriously damaged or destroyed.
There is good news among all the grim statistics, though. There have been no reported cyclos destroyed in any vehicle accidents so far this year—a sharp decrease from 1997, when nine of the pedal-propelled taxis were reported as seriously damaged or destroyed in accidents, El Samnang said.
(Additional reporting by Mhari Saito)