In the first week of 2024, a surge in road traffic accidents in Cambodia claimed the lives of over 20 individuals and left nearly 80 injured, according to Ministry of Interior spokesperson Touch Sokhak. The toll prompted calls from traffic specialists for an intensified enforcement of road traffic laws.

Sokheak noted that 2024 began much like 2023, with road accidents continuing to be a pressing issue, particularly affecting motorcyclists. 

“Interior minister Sar Sokha has identified traffic accidents as one of the six key priorities for the ministry in this seventh mandate. He has directed specialised units to apply legal principles,” he said.

He mentioned that casualties persisted daily, attributed to negligence, drunk driving, speeding and reckless overtaking. The root cause lies in the lack of understanding and respect for road safety, necessitating collective efforts for solutions.

Kim Pagna, country director of the Asia Injury Prevention (AIP) Foundation, stated concern over seemingly elevated casualty figures. He said that without implementing more stringent and effective measures this year, there is a potential for a surge in traffic accidents. 

“As I’ve often stated, my first priority is enhancing law enforcement with a specific emphasis on risk factors. Law enforcement must be transparent, equitable and consistently applied around the clock. Secondly, there’s a fundamental need to elevate education and promote awareness of road laws starting from primary levels,” he said.

He suggested that the government should take measures like upgrading infrastructure, conducting vehicular safety inspections and offering first aid to victims. 

“What I want to highlight for 2024 is that laws mandating motorcycle drivers and passengers to wear helmets have been in place since 2007. I urge the government to ensure 100 per cent compliance, and we’ll observe the impact on traffic accidents,” he said.

Pagna suggested that the government focus on publicising the laws, preferably within the next three months. He urged the authorities to tighten laws without exceptions, ensuring complete compliance with helmet-wearing for motorcycle drivers and passengers.

He also called on the ministry to train motorcycle drivers on driving techniques, even though a driver’s licence is yet to be redefined in the laws. Pagna mentioned that his organisation plans to initiate motorcycle technical training, potentially in February or early March. 

“I also want the government to encourage state institutions, the private sector, civil society organisations, schools, factories and manufacturing enterprises to establish internal rules or traffic safety policies and enforce them. State institutions at all levels should take the lead,” he said.