Traffic Fatalities Up 5% in 2009, Down 6% First Half 2010

Traffic accidents killed 1,717 people in Cambodia last year, a 5 percent increase from 2008, a Road Crash and Victim Information System report released Friday said.

However, traffic fatalities decreased 6 percent during the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2009, Him Yan, director of the Interior Ministry’s public order department said yesterday.

In the first half of 2009, 934 people died in traffic accidents, while 908 people died in the first half of this year, Mr Yan said.

To continue this downward trend, the National Committee on Road Safety-which includes officials from the Ministries of Public Works and Transport, Interior, Justice, Health, Education and Finance-are hoping to complete a draft amendment to the traffic law next month, he said.

Proposals include raising the fine for not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle from 3,000 riel [$0.75] to 20,000 riel [$5] and making helmets compulsory for passengers as well as drivers, he added.

An average of 4.7 people died on the road every day of 2009. Last year saw 21,519 reported annual road crash casualties, including 7,022 severe injuries, according to the RCVIS report, which was compiled by NGO Handicap International Belgium and the Ministries of Interior, Health and Public Works and Transport.

“The increase in fatalities was indirectly caused by the increase in vehicles, population and road infrastructure, so more people traveled on the roads,” Sann Socheata, the road safety program manager at Handicap International Belgium, said yesterday, noting that the more direct causes were increased speeding and drunk driving.

Fatalities against vehicle numbers are higher in Cambodia than in other Asean countries, because law enforcement here is more sporadic and helmets are less widely used, Ms Socheata said.

During 2009 the fatality rate per 10,000 registered vehicles was 12.3 in Cambodia, compared to 8.6 in Laos and 3.5 in Vietnam, the RCVIS report said.

About 70 percent of fatalities in Cambodia during 2009 were motorcycle riders with three quarters suffering head injuries, it said.

Traffic accidents have a large socio-economic impact on the country and cost an estimated $248 million in 2009, according to a study by Handicap International Belgium and the Institute of Mobility of Hasselt University in Belgium.

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