A municipal order that went into effect Monday requires motorbike passengers to wear helmets, although the Land Traffic Law does not stipulate that helmetless passengers can be fined.
A motorbike driver wears a helmet in compliance with the traffic law on Monday.
ABOUT 75 motorbike passengers caught riding without helmets have been stopped and "educated" by Phnom Penh Traffic Police so far this week in response to a municipal order that went into effect Monday, the deputy chief of the Traffic Police told the Post Tuesday.
El Narin said 48 helmet-less drivers had been administered fines of 3,000 riels (US$0.75) as part of an effort to ramp up compliance with the Land Traffic Law, which stipulates that drivers - but not passengers - are required to wear helmets.
Traffic Police Chief Tin Prasoeur said Monday that the decision to enforce helmet regulations was prompted by remarks delivered May 19 by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who in a speech at the Ministry of Interior proposed an amendment to the traffic legislation that would empower police to confiscate motorbikes ridden by drivers without helmets.
Tin Prasoeur said he had launched a weeklong pilot program in which officers were warning passengers caught without helmets about the importance of complying with the municipal order, which requires motorbike drivers to carry extra helmets and passengers to wear them.
He said officers would begin fining helmetless passengers next week, but El Narin noted Tuesday that the Land Traffic Law does not include any mention of fines for passengers, adding that officers would continue to "educate" passengers about the municipal order after the conclusion of the pilot program.
Sam Socheata, road safety program manager for Handicap International Belgium, said she had been coordinating with the National Road Safety Committee to push for an amendment to the Land Traffic Law that would allow officers to fine helmetless passengers.
She said Handicap International "fully approved" of the municipal order, noting that the organisation's survey data suggests that motorbike drivers and passengers sustain similar injuries in accidents.
Handicap International's most recent data, from February 2009, indicated that 56 percent of drivers wore helmets compared with only 11 percent of passengers, Sam Socheata said.
The organisation's annual report for 2008, which has yet to be released, recorded 1,638 traffic fatalities, 1,107 of which occurred in accidents involving motorbikes, she said, adding that 70 to 80 percent of traffic fatalities involve head injuries.
Enforcing the rules
Ty Nath, a 40-year-old motorbike driver, said Monday that he was forced to pay 50,000 riels (about $12) after officers caught him driving without a helmet near Central Market. His two passengers weren't wearing helmets either.
He said the police did not bother to explain the specifics of the law or the municipal order.
"They just told me the fine was a compromise," he said before the officers returned and interrupted an interview.
Asked about the incident Tuesday, El Narin said those who feel they have been treated unfairly by Traffic Police officers are encouraged to file a complaint.