Road safety in Cambodia remains a major challenge according to Weimin Ren, director of the transport division of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).
Cambodian officials have expressed agreement with this assessment, noting that the rate of traffic accidents in the Kingdom has recently increased to an alarming degree.
Addressing a Cambodia Road Safety Capacity Building Workshop on Nov. 16 in Siem Reap, Weimin shared his concerns about road safety in Cambodia and across the Asia-Pacific region for all countries to middle income.
“Road safety remains a major issue for us. In our region, 97% of road deaths occur in middle-income countries where road users are vulnerable, including motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists, who account for more than 50% of deaths,” said he said, adding that the proportion of larger vehicles such as cars to the number of vulnerable road users is highest in middle-income countries because low-income countries have far fewer cars on road, while high-income countries have the most cars but far fewer vulnerable road users.
Min Manavy, state secretary in the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and secretary-general of the National Road Safety Committee, said the number of serious accidents increased significantly in the first nine months of 2022 as the economy was opening up again after a lull due to the pandemic, which led to an alarming increase in the number of deaths and injuries in road accidents compared to the same period in 2021.
In a report, the National Road Safety Committee said the first nine months of 2022 saw 2,286 traffic accidents – a 21% increase – including 1,342 fatalities, an increase of 27%.
The report said the number of serious injuries was 2,004 – an increase of 28% – and 2,391 minor injuries were recorded, an increase of 14% compared to the same period in 2021.
“The severity of the road traffic crisis has resulted in deaths, injuries, disabilities and damage to public and private property. The crisis has left Cambodian society with orphans, widows and disabled victims, just as road accidents have had tragic consequences for societies around the world,” she said.
She continued that these difficulties have also strongly affected the transport sector in the Kingdom, which is the life of the national economy and vital for family economies.
Previously, in 2010, the UN recommended that every nation launch a “Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020” to halve the number of traffic accidents worldwide. As for the progress of this plan, Cambodia has not yet achieved its objectives.
“For Cambodia, we need to reduce road accident casualties by about 7,350 people out of a global estimate of 14,700 people per year. Cambodia has reduced our workforce by 4,720 people, or about 31%,” explained Min Manavy.
Traffic accident expert and consultant Kong Ratanak said on November 17 that one of the causes of the increase in traffic accidents in low- and middle-income countries is that the infrastructure in these countries does not was not very good and that the use of safer vehicles like cars remained limited while the use of more vulnerable vehicles sharing the road with them was still common.
“We see that the number of traffic accidents has steadily increased. It has been steadily increasing because traffic flow has increased and also because the number of roads that have been improved and put into service.
“Better road conditions encourage travel over greater distances than before, which means more accidents. As for the strengthening of Cambodian traffic laws, it is not really necessary, we just need to enforce fully and regularly the existing laws”. he said.
Ratanak called on road users to obey the rules of the road and better understand the laws as well as safe driving practices, as not everything that is technically legal is safe to do under all circumstances.
He said the government should facilitate the acquisition of this knowledge through traffic education programs, in addition to road improvements and stricter enforcement.
He said law enforcement officers should step up their traffic enforcement efforts so that the law is applied consistently at all times and to take into account the safety of passengers rather than just their impose fines.
The national police said that as of November 15 there were 70 deaths from traffic accidents, compared to the first 15 days of October, which had 46 dead – an increase of 24 people, which represented a 52% increase in fatalities, partly due to increased travel during the Water Festival holiday.