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Traffic Deaths Doubled in Five Years: Officials

Cambodia’s economy lost nearly $250 million to traffic accidents in 2009, officials said Friday, calling traffic fatalities a second “disaster” behind HIV and AIDs.

More than 1,700 people died in road accidents in 2009, a number twice as high as five years ago, Toch Chan Kosal, secretary of state for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, told reporters Friday.

The number of total reported accidents last year was 21,519, killing 1,717 people and seriously injuring another 7,022, he said, releasing study figures.

Handicap International said the accidents cost Cambodia $248 million.

“The lost money is a greater amount than we had guessed, as the Cambodian government is working hard to reduce poverty,” Toch Chan Kosal said. “We have not reduced the effects of traffic accidents.”

“The number of deaths in traffic accidents continues to increase, year to year, without stopping,” he said.

Accidents were caused by vehicles traveling at high speeds and limited knowledge among drivers, Jeroen Stol, president of Handicap International, said.

Statistics suggest that accidents are getting deadlier. A joint study by Handicap International and the government found that in 2008, the number of wounded fell 17 percent, but the number of fatal accidents rose 4 percent.

However, the study also showed that the number of accidents measured per 10,000 vehicles was decreasing, from 15.1 in 2008 to 12.3 in 2009. The government has established a national policy to reduce the numbers of accidents, victims and deaths and is aiming for a target of 7 deaths per 10,000 vehicles this year.

Nearly 80 percent of head injuries belonged to motorcycle drivers, and about 90 percent of all accidents were caused by drivers violating speed limits, drunk driving or illegally passing.