The Year of the Snake has made a bloody start. Forty-three people died in road accidents during the first four days of Lunar New Year celebrations, which started on February 9.
The figure is almost twice as many as the 24 dead in 2012 – according to statistics from the General Commissariat of National Police.
The body count has sparked fears about carnage during the more widely celebrated Khmer New Year in April.
Government officials from the National Road Safety Committee and other stakeholders are meeting today to discuss how best to stem the bloodshed. On the agenda will be a road-safety campaign to be held just before the Khmer New Year – Ear Chariya, Handicap International’s Road Safety Program manager, said.
On the cards are community-level education programs like road safety workshops and helmet distribution drives.
“The number one cause of accidents here is speeding and drink driving is number two,” said Chariya.
The overloading of vehicles could also account for the higher death toll this year on the roads, Sok Nob of the Interior Ministry’s public order department said.
Statistics show that while the number of accidents held steady – 93 this year, compared to 94 in 2012 – the number of casualties were higher.
“In the past, one or two people died in a crash, but now six to seven people die,” Nob said.
Chariya added that the real problem is the lack of enforcement on the roads, especially when it comes to drink driving. In addition, revised legislation, drafted in 2011, which will require passengers on motorbikes to wear helmets, has not been passed.
Still, police here are taking steps to ensure Khmer New Year festivities go without a hitch – “thousands” of officers will be mobilised, Nob said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Danson Cheong at [email protected]
Khoun Leakhana at [email protected]