At least 21 people died and 76 were injured in 49 road accidents that took place across the country over the four-day Lunar New Year festivities from February 11-14.

This was a drop in the total number of accidents compared to the same period last year.

The causes of the accidents included speeding; ignoring the right-of-way rules; overtaking and attempting to make turns under dangerous conditions; falling asleep and using mobile phones at the wheel; and driving under the influence of alcohol.

Him Yan, deputy National Police chief and secretary-general of the National Road Safety Committee, told The Post on February 15 that compared to the same period last year, the number of traffic accidents had dropped, resulting in the number of deaths dropping by 19 and the number of injuries dropping by four.

“Overall, things improved this year. First, our police have worked hard to direct the flow of traffic. Second, they made prior preparations by spreading the word to people about road safety while travelling. The majority of people have been respecting the traffic laws, so road conditions have improved,” he said.

He continued that last year authorities had tried to tighten enforcement of the laws and made enforcing the speed limit a priority, leading to a significant drop in accidents compared to the previous year. Traffic accidents for the year were down by nearly 1,000 with 335 fewer deaths and 1,445 fewer injuries.

Yan explained that this year the authorities intend to continue to tighten enforcement further so that drivers will learn to respect the road traffic laws and that by doing this they hope to keep the number of accidents to a minimum.

Traffic accident expert Kong Ratanak said road accidents in Cambodia remained a widespread problem. But he agreed that the report Yan discussed showed some signs of improvement.

As a traffic monitor, Ratanak said he acknowledged that the number of traffic accidents had dropped but he was still concerned with the continued loss of lives on a daily basis, as reported by the National Police.

“Personally, I want to see this problem solved. We have to identify its root causes clearly. Of course, this problem is not only happening in Cambodia but all throughout the world. Developed countries also experience frequent traffic accidents but the overall number of the accidents in the developed countries is lower than in developing countries like Cambodia,” he said.

Ratanak said the numbers of traffic accidents during the Lunar New Year celebrations this year were not significantly different from last year. He explained that an average of five or six people die in road accidents on a normal day, but that figure increases to nine to 10 people per day during the holiday period.