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Traffic Deaths Rising Steeply: Group

Traffic deaths, especially among the young, are increasing nationwide, government officials said this week, following the release of a new independent report.

At least 125 people died and 576 were seriously injured in traffic accidents nationwide in December 2007, Handicap International reported this week. This is a 32 percent increase compared to the same period in 2006, the group said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday that traffic accidents were the second-most killer in Cambodia, next to HIV and AIDS.

Handicap International spokesman Sem Panhavuth said about 83 percent of the victims died because of head injuries. Of those who died, only four were wearing a helmet, he said.

The increase was due to the "human factor," rather than the road conditions or weather, he said, adding that most of the victims were men, and about 70 percent of the fatalities were in motorcycle crashes.

"They drive very fast when they are drunk, and don't obey the traffic laws," he said. "Especially the young, between 15 years and 29 years old."

Tem Proseur, director of the Phnom Penh traffic police, said that in in the capital only about 80 percent of motorcycle drivers wear helmets. In 2007, he said, Phnom Penh saw 260 deaths, 60 more than in 2006.

Most of the victims were students, Pen Khun, deputy director of Phnom Penh traffic police, said.

In order to decrease the traffic fatalities, the government has formed a traffic safety committee, which includes members from 20 ministries, said Chum Iek, secretary of state for the Ministry of Public Works.

The committee is working to advocate traffic safety to students, as well as strengthening law enforcement. The committee hopes to work with non-government agencies to educate people on traffic laws, he said.