Amid celebrations and ceremonies that centre on happiness, we often lose sight of the tragedy that holidays can bring.
Traffic-related injuries and fatalities still remain the case of concern as the Kingdom gears up to celebrate the Khmer New Year.
International NGO Handicap International has explored an important correlation in the numbers between traffic accidents and national holidays.
“Khmer New Year brings an increase in the amount of traffic accidents, more than any other national holiday because of the amount of travel,” according to Sem Panhavuth, manager of Road Crashes and Victims Information Systems (RCVIS) of Handicap International Cambodia.
After last New Year, local media and government offices were filled with reports on traffic accidents. The Phnom Penh Post and a report made public by the Ministry of Interior stated that spanning the 13-17 of April 2011, traffic accidents caused 58 fatalities and 484 injuries.
The Ministry of Interior’s report also cited an increase in traffic accidents for the year 2011. While 33 per cent of crashes were a result of speeding, 20 per cent were a result of drink diving and 26 per cent resulted from traffic violations.
That made traffic accidents Cambodia’s biggest murderer in 2011, along with HIV/AIDS.
On March 29, 2011, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport confirmed that that the government was losing roughly US$284 million per year to road accidents – another wake-up call to the nation.
Formal statistics for the second half of 2011 will be released in mid-April, according to Chhoung Voun, Head of Statistics and Road Safety Division of the National Road Safety Committee. However, he said that motorbikes are the most common vehicle involved in traffic accidents.
Sem Panhavuth confirmed that Handicap International Cambodia also found that most accidents occurred with those riding motorbikes.
Meanwhile, he said, overcrowded taxis also play a large role in the danger – and perhaps have a bigger impact – since such a high volume of passengers are involved in the accident.
Sem Panhavuth explained that if young Cambodians band together to address this growing problem, then the government can spend less on traffic accidents and build up schools, health centres and other public institutions instead.
He added that the trauma of a traffic accident is not worth the pain and heart-ache.
“If a family is affected by a traffic accident, that family will definitely face many crises – physical, emotional and economic,” Sem Panhavuth said.
For this week’s Constructive Cambodia, Kim Panha, Country Director of Asia Injury Prevention, weighed in to recommend that young Cambodians raise awareness to the issue.
“From my working experience, traffic accidents in our country are mostly caused by youth,” he said. “So my advice to young Cambodians is to respect traffic law, like road signs and the speed limit, while travelling – and to especially avoid drink driving and racing.”