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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Drunken driving at night cited

Authorities attend the scene of an accident in Phnom Penh
Authorities attend the scene of an accident in Phnom Penh last year. Police are blaming drunken driving that occurs at night for the rise in road deaths last year. Heng Chivoan

Drunken driving at night cited

National Police are citing drunken drivers en route from nightclubs as responsible for the rise in road accidents last year.

An estimated 80 per cent of 2014’s more than 4,800 traffic accidents occurred after midnight and involved drunken drivers, and often those leaving from entertainment clubs, according to National Police Chief Neth Savoeun.

“So we must take necessary measures and strategies to prevent accidents at nighttime,” he said, urging traffic police nationwide to take action, including tightening controls on speeding, increasing the monitoring of drunk driving and improving traffic law enforcement.

According to the most recently available, but not yet final, government figures, there were 4,840 accidents last year, killing 2,148 people and injuring 8,047. More than 80 per cent of the fatal accidents involved motorcycles.

Last year’s accident tally, which may not yet include all the figures, represents another bump in the trend of growing accident rates. In 2013, there were 4,322 accidents which claimed 1,901 lives and injured 7,208 people.

To address the growing number of accidents, last month, lawmakers passed a landmark traffic bill that road safety proponents hope will cut the number of road fatalities. By 2020, the government wants road deaths to decrease by 50 per cent.

The new law requires passengers on motorbikes to wear helmets and limits the number of riders to one adult and one child. It also raises fines for drunken driving up to $1,000.

“Through the new law enforcement, the authorities expect they will reduce 10 per cent of the annual fatalities,” said Him Yan, deputy police chief in charge of public order.

But law enforcement can’t single-handedly resolve the nation’s continually escalating accident rates, an expert said.

“The enforcement alone won’t slow down the road deaths unless the other support actions are taken including the awareness/education, emergency responses, road safety engineering, [and] vehicle inspection”, Ear Chariya, an independent road safety consultant said in a recent email.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JOE FREEMAN

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