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Study tallies costs of crashes

TRAFFIC accidents cost Cambodia US$248 million dollars last year in property damage, medical costs and other areas, marking a 114 percent rise since 2003, according to a new study by NGO Handicap International Belgium.

“This is a huge amount that Cambodia lost while the government and all people are working hard to reduce poverty,” Touch Chankosal, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said at the launch of the report on Friday. “It is so sad that $248 million was lost to preventable road crashes.... It means that we still could not reduce the economic impact of road crashes to the national economy.”

The study, modelled on a study produced by the Asian Development Bank in 2003, divided the losses into five categories: property damage, administrative costs, medical costs, lost output and human costs.

Human costs, defined in the study as the “cost of pain, grief and suffering of casualties”, totalled $73 million, a figure that was reached by assigning a dollar amount to four types of casualties. Each fatality cost $7,864, each serious injury cost $3,869, each disability cost $24,601 and each “slight injury” cost $131.

Property damage, the next-largest category of loss, cost the Kingdom $60 million. Administrative costs, defined in the study as “time spent by traffic police, insurance companies and courts”, totalled $43 million, and medical costs totalled $18 million.

The study also attempted to quantify the economic output lost as a result of casualties. This was done by tallying productivity losses for victims and caregivers during recovery periods, time spent looking for new jobs and, in the case of fatalities, their expected incomes from the age of death to “retirement age”. In all, productivity losses totalled $53 million.

According to the 2003 ADB study, the cost of traffic accidents amounted to 3 percent of GDP. Using a December assessment from the International Monetary Fund, the cost of traffic accidents in 2009 amounted to 2.3 percent of GDP.

In his remarks at the launch event Friday, HIB Country Director Jeroen Stol said more than 50 percent of the 1,717 recorded traffic fatalities last year were “those in the productive age”. Most were on motorbikes, he said, and 76 percent sustained head injuries.

Stol added that the 2009 fatality rate of 12.3 per 10,000 registered vehicles is “almost double” the ASEAN goal for 2010, which is seven fatalities per 10,000 registered vehicles.

Chev Hak, deputy chief of the Phnom Penh Traffic Police, said on Friday that one obstacle to making the roads safer is that many drivers were unaware of traffic laws, and others are reluctant to comply with them.

“Even if we whistle a hundred times,” he said, “people will not stop.”

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