News / Asia

Cambodia's Traffic Casualties Expected to Climb

HI-B's regional road safety officer Sann Socheata says the law that compelled motorbike drivers - but not passengers - to wear a helmet has saved lives
HI-B's regional road safety officer Sann Socheata says the law that compelled motorbike drivers - but not passengers - to wear a helmet has saved lives
Robert Carmichael

Almost two years ago Cambodia's government introduced laws to improve road safety. But the numbers dying and being injured on the country's roads have kept increasing. Like many developing nations, Cambodia is struggling to match the rise in traffic with a rise in safety.

Ten years of re-building to replace infrastructure lost in decades of war have given Cambodia long stretches of smooth roads.

But those roads have done little to improve safety in a country with thousands of new, poorly trained drivers. Cars and motorbikes that once crawled along bumpy, pitted roads now move at high speed.

Six years ago the Department of Transportation registered 38,000 new vehicles. By last year the number had surged to 307,000.

Combine that with the fact that there are just 51 registered driving teachers, and the result is that more Cambodians are dying on the country's roads than ever before.

Last year more than 1,700 were killed, nearly twice the number of deaths in 2005.

Preap Chanvibol heads the government's land transportation department, and is involved with the safety education program at the National Road Safety Committee.

He says Cambodia has the worst fatality rate in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"If we compare with ASEAN, the fatality rate per 10,000 vehicles, the rate in Cambodia is higher than the other ASEAN countries. Up to 2009, the fatality rate is around 12 per 10,000 vehicles," he said.

Preap Chanvibol says more than half the deaths are caused by speeding and alcohol.

And in a country where 90 percent of new registered vehicles are motorbikes, head injuries are also a major killer.

The government's approach has been to tackle those key issues.

"We focus on the three cases - these are speed limit, drink driving and the one more is helmet wearing, because more than 70 percent of motorcycle (fatalities) have head injury. So we focus on helmet wearing also," he said.

As in many developing nations, most Cambodians cannot afford cars so they use motorbikes instead.

But until two years ago, very few Cambodians owned a motorbike helmet, and fewer than 10 percent anyone wore them.

Sann Socheata is the regional road safety officer for Handicap International-Belgium, or HI-B, an aid group that has been promoting road safety in Cambodia since 2004.

HI-B supports the traffic police in enforcing the law, since enforcement is vital. And it works with the Ministry of Education in teaching road safety to children.

"We started since 2004, so, so far now all primary schools in Cambodia already have been introduced to the road safety curriculum. And we also plan to continue up to high school curriculum within the National Road Safety Committee and the Ministry of Education," said Sann Socheata.

She says the most important step in recent years was the 2009 law requiring motorbike drivers to wear a helmet, or face a fine. Now more than 80 percent of motorbike drivers wear helmets, at least in the day.

As a consequence, fewer people have died from head injuries suffered in motorbike crashes.

But there are significant obstacles.

Preap Chanvibol at the land transportation department says few wear helmets at night because the traffic police only work during the day.

That will change next year when traffic police start working night shifts, which should also reduce the number of people driving drunk.

The government also plans to amend the law to require motorbike passengers, not just drivers, to wear helmets.

Police also have gotten new tools to catch speeders and drunk drivers - speed guns and breathalyzers.

HI-B's Sann Socheata says, however, that the number of people dying on Cambodia's roads will continue to climb for the next decade as the roads get both busier and better.

The best the government and road safety groups can hope for is that the National Road Safety Action Plan slows that rate of increase.

"But through the national action plan implementation with sufficient resources, then we expect that the fatalities can be reduced by 30 percent. So it means through the proper implementation and sufficient resources Cambodia can save 4,700 lives in the 10 years," said Sann Socheata.

If the plan is properly funded and implemented, HI-B predicts that 2,240 people will die on Cambodia's roads in 2020. That is around 500 more than died last year, but given the expected increase in traffic, it will be far fewer than without the plan.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs