Mobile vehicle inspection units will begin to visit far-flung provinces in the coming weeks to help rural car and truck owners have their vehicles checked, though traffic safety experts said they had doubts about the initiative making a difference.
Transport Minister Sun Chanthol announced on Tuesday that the ministry would spend nearly $1 million for three of the machines—including one already imported from China—in response to a high number of fatalities resulting from traffic accidents and a lack of inspection services in rural areas.
“Previously, we had only immobile technical inspection machines, but today we will use mobile ones to provide services closer to the people…who have cars in remote provinces far from Phnom Penh, such as Mondolkiri, Ratanakkiri, Preah Vihear and so on,” he said.
Mr. Chanthol said that while the road death toll had dropped from an average of six per day last year to just over four per day this year, the number was still high.
“That is why the technical inspections are very important in reducing traffic accidents, because while some cars and trucks are inspected as per the standards, others are inspected improperly or modified,” he said.
A private company contracted by the Transport Ministry to conduct mechanical tests in the country’s eight existing static inspection centers will take to the road with the new machines this month. There are about 530,000 registered cars and trucks in the country.
Each inspection unit will be able to test about 140 vehicles per day, compared to 300 a day at static stations, he said.
Car owners must have their cars inspected within four years of purchase, and again every two years, while trucks must be inspected after two years, and then every year.
Chan Dara, director of the Transport Ministry’s transport department, said vehicle owners had complained of not being able to access adequate mechanical services in the provinces.
“Now we are sending out the mobile technical inspection machine to respond to the difficulties,” he said.
“This means that our services will go to locations where those people live and soon we will set up schedules for how many days the machines will be set up at locations and for how many days,” he said.
Mr. Dara said those found without a valid certificate of inspection would be fined at least 120,000 riel, or about $30.
Ear Chariya, who heads the Institute for Road Safety, said the initiative was a positive step, but that habits of bribing officials to pass inspections might be hard to break.
“Some vehicles that are not technically inspected also get the certificate of technical inspection,” he said. “So the inspections need to be done according to the technical standards without corrupt practices.”
Pen Sakony, deputy program manager at Handicap International in Cambodia, said unsafe vehicles were only one of many factors contributing to dangerous driving.
“Road traffic accidents can only be reduced if the law is enforced regularly and effectively around driver and pedestrian behavior on the roads,” she said, recommending campaigns to educate people about traffic safety and more funding for related initiatives.