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‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

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Police officers stop a driver for a traffic law violation on Monivong Boulevard in Phnom Penh in April. Heng Chivoan

‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences.

General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in charge of road traffic, said the enforcement of penalties in accordance with Sub-Decree No 39 on road traffic remains in place.

When pressed about the waiver for offences described in the leaked audio – including failure to respect traffic lights and signs, reckless overtaking, not wearing seat belts or helmets, using a phone while behind the wheel and overloading – Yan said only that all road traffic measures remain in place, although the authorities have decided to ease some of the penalties by instead focussing on educating drivers.

According to the same audio, offences that are still subject to penalties include speeding and driving under the influence. Drivers caught without a driving licence or with a vehicle bearing no licence plates will also be fined.

Yan continued without elaborating that the combined education and disciplinary measures would be more progressive.

“Please respect the traffic laws at all times, because intentional or unintentional violation of the law will endanger lives and create more congestion,” he said.

Chan Sothy, director of the Battambang provincial road traffic bureau, confirmed to The Post on June 20 that he had received instructions to ease enforcement of the road traffic laws and had held a meeting to disseminate the information to his officers.

Sothy said that drivers caught ignoring traffic lights and signs, overloading, not wearing seatbelts or helmets and using a phone would now receive a roadside reprimand and education before being allowed to continue.

He noted that those caught speeding, driving drunk, driving without a licence or number plates would be fined.

“Previously, we fined car drivers for nine offences, but now we will only penalise them for four. Motorcyclists will be fined for three offences as opposed to seven previously,” he added.

Kim Pagna, country director of Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, said the use of educational mechanisms was not an effective strategy and was likely to lead to an increase in road deaths and injuries.

He said that if anything, enforcement of the laws should be tightened because Cambodia had been successful in reducing the number of casualties in 2020 and 2021.

“Traffic accidents are not like other social problems. In 2016, authorities increased their enforcement of traffic laws and we saw a corresponding decrease in fatalities and injuries.

“In 2017-19, we watched the incidence rates increase. Why? Enforcement was relaxed at the same time as many newly registered vehicles hit the roads. Often the drivers were new to owning cars and sometimes, neglected to take driving lessons or obtain driving licenses,” he said.

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