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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Small decline in helmet use reported

Small decline in helmet use reported

Nearly three months since helmet law came into effect, traffic cops say compliance is down.

THE chief of the capital's Traffic Police told the Post Wednesday that officers had recently noticed a slight decrease in the number of drivers complying with the helmet law, a trend he said was fuelled in part by students who "don't respect the law".

The law, which went into effect January 1, makes the wearing of protective headgear compulsory for motorbike drivers.

Tin Prasoer said  that roughly 70 percent of motorbike drivers had complied with the law during the first few weeks of the year.

He said that number had since fallen to 60 percent.

"I have a seen a decrease in drivers wearing helmets because people respect the law only for a short time," he said.

"But that does not mean we will stop enforcing the law. We are still strongly enforcing the law and explaining to drivers the importance of wearing helmets."

For the most part, he noted, those motorbike drivers who originally complied with the law continued to do so.

"The decrease in helmet-wearing has been mainly with students who are not afraid of police and don't respect the law," he said.

An enforcement issue?

But Sam Socheata, road safety program manager at Handicap International Belgium, said there was another reason for the decrease: selective enforcement on the part of Traffic Police officers.

"The traffic police don't give out fines everywhere," she said.

"And drivers know now which roads they can drive on and not be in danger of receiving a fine."

Motorbike drivers caught without a helmet must pay a fine of 3,000 riels (US$0.73).

Though she said she believed traffic police officers were "working very hard", Sam Socheata called on them to "enforce the law on all the roads in Phnom Penh".

 According to a Handicap International survey, the percentage of motorbike drivers wearing helmets increased from 24 percent to 52 percent between July 2008 and February 2009, a jump Sam Socheata said could be largely attributed to the helmet law. 

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