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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hit-and-run traffic accidents

Hit-and-run traffic accidents

121121_06

Photograph: Phnom Penh Post

Accidents happen all the time in every place. Most of the time in a car crash situation, the driver that caused it, presuming the victims’ relatives or the victim herself or himself can potentially sue for compensation, runs off.

Irresponsibility is becoming a habit now in Cambodian. How to determine the driver’s and/or the passenger’s liability in case of accident due to negligent driving and how to factor all the elements in?

Ngoun So Vitou survived from a serious traffic accident. He tells us about his experience: “I got hit by a car and got knocked unconscious. I ended up with serious injuries. The bad driver took off. When finally I was able to stand back on my feet, I was furious with this guy. I wanted to know why he’d done that to me and especially why he did not fulfill his moral obligation of acknowledgement and fled.”

Ith Srey recalls similar experiences. “My mother recently got in a traffic accident. She was on the highway with her husband and got bumped into from behind by another motorbike and fell down on the road. The biker was totally oblivious, disappeared and left us in the lurch.”

“For sure, I am used to this. People are wary they will have to reimburse for all incurred costs but in my case, I wanted him to say “I’m sorry” and acknowledge the damage. Only a real man can stand his grounds and make a point in showing responsibility for what he does. That’s it!” says Srey Mom.

Si Teoun is a retired police officer with more than 20 years of experience in traffic accidents intervention cases. He says that up until now, bad drivers are more enticed to running the risk to escape than facing possible lawsuits, indictment and compensation.

Si Teoun says that “When those bad drivers do not vanish, a lot of the times it is because they get themselves injured as well and just cannot get away on time before the police arrives. On very rare occasions will you see an irresponsible driver stick around and wait for the cops to show up. This is a personal observation”.

On the other hand, Keo Sovannarith is a student in his last year of a public administration program. He sank into a heavy depression following a road accident he got involved in. He had to face subsequent hit-and-run accusations.

“I felt so bad, it was his fault, he had to act responsibly. I was really wondering whether he was aware he had narrowly escaped a terrible fate”.

According to articles # 69 to 90 from the Land Traffic legislation, penalties depend on the gravity of the situation and the driver’s general behavior.

Responsibility can either be civil or criminal and hinges on physical and material damage done to people and/or the vehicle.

Article # 82 of the Traffic Law refers to a person who unintentionally causes death while driving.

The person shall be then sentenced from to 1 to 3 years in jail. She or he could also face a fine ranging from 2 to 6 million riels. The person can also face both penalties.  

If the driver escapes and gets caught at a later time and found guilty in court, severe legal sentences are handed down.

The law, however, does not mention anything about basic hit-and-run and liability in such case.

The SAO Deluxe a student from the Transnational Law and Business program at a South Korean university suggests that: “Administrative changes are necessary. If the law were enforced strictly on the matter, drivers would not have a single chance to escape. Things could change in 3 simple steps: strict law enforcement, penalty provisions amendment, and public awareness promotion.”

On the other hand, Sovannarith hopes institutions and the Cambodian society will unequivocally deal with this issue by providing more accurate information about traffic law and responsible driving in schools.

The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation could set up a vehicle ownership tracking system.

This would greatly help the police to identify the driver of the incriminated vehicle in a car crash.

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