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Interior Minister Despondent Over Rising Deaths From Road Accidents

In this photo taken on Nov. 2, 2002, Cambodian police redirect traffic in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
In this photo taken on Nov. 2, 2002, Cambodian police redirect traffic in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng seemed dejected on Sunday as he announced that there had been a 10 percent increase in traffic-related deaths for the first ten months of this year, compared to the same period in 2018.

The minister was speaking at an event marking World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims in Phnom Penh on Sunday, where he read out recent National Police statistics for road deaths as of October.

He said there were 1,665 deaths from around 3,400 road accidents from January to October, 151 more deaths than for the same period in 2018. Sar Kheng, striking a despondent note, said these accidents were not only killing people, but they were also a financial burden on the families of those killed or injured.

“This increasing trend of traffic accidents is a bad sign,” he said. “I acknowledge that if you have any suggestions or means to solve the problem, please help.”

The Ministry of Interior passed an updated Traffic Law in 2015 with heftier fines for a range of offences. But experts argue that implementation has been lax and riddled with corruption. Additionally, failing road conditions were further exacerbating the issue.

Kong Ratanak, acting director of the Institute for Road Safety, said the police were not implementing the new law uniformly, nor were road conditions improving fast enough to see a drop in the number of road deaths.

He added that it was equally the responsibility of citizens to comply with these regulations, many of whom only followed a few rules out of fear of being caught by the police.

“We see that the compliance of citizens is limited,” he said. “For example, people will not wear a helmet unless the police [are nearby].”

According to a report by the National Road Safety Committee, 90 percent of the most common traffic accidents are caused by human factors, such as over speeding, driving under the influence, and risky overtaking maneuvers.

The report also noted that an average of five people are killed and 11 are injured in traffic accidents a day, costing about $ 350 million a year.