ROAD collisions decreased nationwide in the first six months of this year compared with the same period last year as a result of stricter traffic law enforcement, though fatalities stayed level and compliance with the helmet requirement was low, an official said yesterday.
Preap Chanvibol, director of the Land Transport Department at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said figures released this week from the Interior Ministry’s Department of Public Order – which collates road accident data from police reports – showed a 7 percent decrease in the number of collisions between January and June of this year and the same period last year, with totals dropping from 3,257 to 3,040.
But the number of fatalities fell by just three, from 934 to 931, he said.
He added that compliance with an amendment to the Land Traffic Law requiring motorbike drivers to wear helmets had not increased sufficiently, particularly in the provinces.
The amendment, implemented in January 2009, introduced a fine of 3,000 riels for helmetless motorbike drivers.
“In Phnom Penh, around 72 percent of people wear helmets, while in the provinces only 46 percent of people comply with the helmet rule,” he said.
“Traffic police have to strengthen law enforcement on this point to reach 100 percent implementation from 2010 on.”
Preap Chanvibol said officials would continue to emphasise the importance of nighttime traffic policing – which was increased early this year – in an attempt to bolster compliance with the helmet law.
“More people do not like to wear helmets at night when they know that traffic police are not working,” he said.
Sem Panhavuth, project manager for the Road Crash and Victim Information System (RCVIS), which collects data from traffic police and health facilities, said figures for the first six months of this year and last year were not available, but noted that RCVIS often records higher numbers of accidents and fatalities than those documented by the Interior Ministry.
“Sometimes the police are not involved, and traffic accident victims go straight to the hospital,” he said.
He noted, though, that RCVIS figures for the first three months of this year had also shown virtually no change in fatalities – 493 this year compared with 492 last year – despite a dramatic drop in the number of total crash casualties, which fell 32 percent from 6,732 to 4,662.
He said the number of traffic collision casualties had been in decline since the introduction of the Land Traffic Law in 2007, and that he expects to see the trend continue as enforcement of the law is strengthened.
“In 2009 the number of casualties had decreased since the previous year,” he said. “If traffic police continue to enforce the law, I think fatalities will decrease.”
He also reiterated long-standing calls from road traffic activists for the government to focus on increasing helmet use. According to RCVIS
statistics released earlier this year, motorbike crashes accounted for around 70 percent of traffic fatalities last year, and 80 percent of the dead
succumbed to head injuries.
Officials at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport said last month that they had finalised a draft of amendments to the Land Traffic Law that includes a proposal to raise helmet fines to 21,000 riels (about $5).
On Thursday, however, Preap Chanvibol said the draft ammendments had not been sent to the Council of Ministers for approval, as the details were again being discussed.