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Khmer New Year road deaths down but ‘still a concern’

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A road traffic accident in Prek Prasap district of Kratie province on Sunday. POLICE

Khmer New Year road deaths down but ‘still a concern’

A senior Asia Injury Prevention Foundation (AIP) official voiced concern over the number of people killed and injured in road accidents during the recent Khmer New Year holiday – the first to be celebrated after a two-year Covid-19 hiatus – saying that although it was lower than that of the 2019 celebrations, it was still too high.

The National Police’s Department of Traffic Police and Public Order reported that from April 14-17, road accidents left 30 people dead and more than 100 injured.

AIP country director Kim Pagna told The Post on April 17 that this number was still worrying and that even more measures were required to tighten enforcement of the rules of the road.

“I see these figures as high, and believe that stricter measures should be applied. I believe enforcement should be wider, stricter and more consistent. Of course, the rules must be policed with consistency and transparency,” he said.

In the years 2020 and 2021, Cambodia did not celebrate the Khmer New Year as the Kingdom had been forced to enact strict Covid-19 response mechanisms.

Pagna conceded that even though each one of the 30 people who were lost to the roads this year was one too many, it was a vast improvement on the 2019 Khmer New Year death toll.

“One positive indicator is the fact that over a million vehicles were registered between 2019 and 2022, yet despite the increase in the number of road users, the number of fatalities and injuries actually reduced. With more efforts, we can make these terrible figures even lower,” he said.

Pagna noted that government institutions, civil society groups, and members of the public – including private companies and the media – had widely publicised the need for caution on the roads.

“Overall, I have seen the positive effects of widespread public education. Despite many more vehicles on the roads – and an increase of heavy traffic flowing to the provinces – we managed to prevent the horrors of the 2019 holiday period. In just five days of the last public Khmer New year festival, as many as 60 people were killed and more than 200 injured,” he said.

However, he suggested that despite the education, there were still too many poor drivers on the roads. While the majority of people now understood and obeyed traffic regulations, many still displayed reckless attitudes. This lack of judgement manifested itself in many ways, including not wearing a helmet, driving at high speeds and disregarding traffic lights.

He had earlier requested that all law enforcement institutions practise a policy of zero-tolerance – even during national holidays – to lower the Kingdom’s road toll.

Min Manavy – Ministry of Public Works and Transport secretary of state and secretary-general of the National Road Safety Committee – described traffic accidents as a “hidden killer”, acknowledging that it was one of the major challenges still facing the country.

“The main causes of road accidents remain speeding, disrespecting others right of way, careless turns and a failure to observe the basic rule of keeping right. Selfishness is at the heart of these examples of poor decision making,” she said.

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