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Traffic law delayed, but still much in play

6 traffic

The election season and the business of campaigning will delay a long-awaited traffic law that advocates say will save hundreds of lives lost on Cambodia’s roads every year, a senior official said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters outside of a planning and budgeting workshop at the Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh, Chhon Von, the deputy secretary of the National Road Safety Committee, said the law – still in draft form – would have been passed this year if not for the distracting nature of the national election.

“Most of the government officials are busy with campaigning and getting ready for the election, that’s why we delay it until next year,” he said, adding that the law remains a priority.

The revised statute builds on an existing one adopted in 2007 by adding helmet mandates for passengers on motorbikes, and increasing fines for speeding and drunk driving, which account for the majority of accidents.

According to a National Road Safety Committee report, there were 1,977 deaths and 5,352 injuries last year.

An aggressive media campaign, alarming crash statistics (on average, five people die every day in incidents) and a recent spate of high-profile accidents have pushed the issue of road safety to the fore. Prime Minister Hun Sen has even publicly called for reform, giving it a further sense of urgency.

But experts say that the election is not the only barrier to passing the law. Drafters want to get it right, down to the last detail. At the meeting yesterday, for example, there were lengthy talks about more specifications for baby seats.

“I’m not surprised [about the wait],” Ear Chariya, road safety program manager for Handicap International, said yesterday.

“[But] I think now it’s a priority. If we compare with the current version of the traffic law, it took about 10 years for it to pass,” he said. With this latest version, Chariya estimated that it will take about three.

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