As families started to travel home for the Pchum Ben festival, police officials yesterday appealed to the public to drive safely in order to keep traffic accidents down.
“I hope all our passengers will focus on their safety first to welcome the Pchum Ben festival,” said Brigadier General Him Yan, director of the Interior Ministry’s public order department. Traffic police are on duty across the country to enforce traffic laws, including limits on speed, alcohol and loading, he said.
Three times as many traffic accidents normally occur during the Pchum Ben festival, which sees an average of about 15 accidents a day, he said.
Heng Chantheary, Phnom Penh municipal traffic police chief, said drivers who overload taxis or trucks carrying goods will be stopped and have their vehicles confiscated until the end of the festival.
“Our goal is to reduce traffic jams at every gateway out of Phnom Penh city,” Mr Chantheary said, noting that traffic buildups had been reduced by new bridges across the Tonle Sap.
During the 15-day festival, which ends Friday, Buddhist families traditionally return home to make offerings to their ancestors at local pagodas.
Last year, 50 traffic fatalities were recorded during the festival, up from 41 in 2008 and 48 in 2007, according to a 2009 Cambodian Road Crash and Victim Information System annual report.
Socheata Sann, program manager at NGO Handicap International Belgium, said that many Cambodians travel to their homes in the provinces for the holiday, which caused the number of crashes to increase. “The more travel, the more risk there is,” Ms Sann said, noting that about 60 percent of accidents took place on the main national roads.
Handicap International has distributed leaflets and posters on traffic risks, focusing on drunk driving and speeding, to coincide with the festival, she said. Since 2004, there have been public awareness campaigns during holiday periods, so the priority now is making sure drivers comply with the law, she said. “What is most important is enforcement,” she added.
(Additional reporting by Phok Dorn)