Traffic Deaths Climbing as Cambodia Readies Law

Traffic deaths in the first 11 months of 2006 far surpassed the total number in 2005, with 1,163 fatalities reported on Cambodia’s roads, according to preliminary statistics from Handicap International.

The total number of non-fatal casualties also shot up to 21,481 between January and November of 2006, compared with 15,039 traffic casualties in all of 2005, said Sann Socheata, road safety program manager at Handicap International. A total of 904 people died in 2005.

Most accidents, Sann Socheata said, are caused by “human error” such as speeding, drunk-driving and dangerous overtaking.

Proper implementation of the provisions in the new traffic law, passed by the National Assembly in December, will be critical if the upward trend of accidents and casualties is to change, she added.

“[The traffic law] is a very, very important key” to reducing casualties, Sann Socheata said.

The law, which is awaiting King Norodom Sihamoni’s signature, requires drivers of 49cc motorbikes or higher to carry a license.

Drivers of two-wheeled vehicles are also required to wear helmets, while drivers with a blood-alcohol concentration above 0.4 milligrams per liter will be subject to up to six months in jail and $250 in fines, according to a copy of the law.

Keo Savin, director of land transport in the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said his ministry plans to offer a free course for drivers around the country to learn about the new traffic law.

Motorists must participate in the training course to obtain a license, he said. Total fees to take the driving test and obtain a license amount to less than $7, Keo Savin said.

Of 500,000 motorbikes legally registered with the Transport Ministry, only 2,000 are driven by licensed drivers, he said.

          (Additional reporting by Elizabeth Tomei)


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