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Traffic Law fines set

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Students drive though Phnom Penh without helmets last month. The government is drafting a sub-decree that would see motorists fined five-times more for not wearing a helmet starting in January. Hong Menea

Traffic Law fines set

A sub-decree being drafted by the Interior Ministry is adding teeth in the form of markedly heavier fines to the Kingdom’s nearly 6-month-old, still yet-to-be enforced, Traffic Law.

Under the sub-decree’s terms, motorcyclists and motorcycle passengers who fail to wear a helmet will have to pay 15,000 riel ($3.75) – a five-fold increase on the 3,000 riel ($0.75) fine currently only levied against the vehicle’s drivers.

Penalties for not wearing seatbelts in cars will be similarly hiked, from 5,000 riel ($1.25) to 25,000 riel ($6.25).

For drivers and passengers in trucks, the new fines could reach 50,000 riel ($12.50). None of the fines will take effect until January.

The fines are part of an effort to combat overwhelming road fatalities, with an average in excess of six deaths per day on Cambodian roads in 2014 and 1,229 traffic deaths recorded in the first six months of this year.

While the seatbelt fines should apply to any passenger in a car, according the director of the Interior Ministry’s Public Order Department, Run Rathveasna, the police will be allowed to implement a measure of leeway.

“The law says everyone must wear seatbelts including backseat passengers, but in principle, police will only implement the law against front seat passengers,” he said yesterday. “For safety, everyone in the car should wear seatbelts.”

The sub-decree fills a gap in the new Traffic Law, approved in December 2015, which established stricter rules on crash helmets and the use of seatbelts, but did not state the penalties offenders would incur.

The sub-decree also establishes fines for a range of other offences, including driving without a licence, letting a child under the age of 10 sit in the passenger seat of a car, and using a mobile phone without an earpiece while driving.

Both the Traffic Law and the new sub-decree are set to come into force in January, with Rathveasna saying the coming months would be a phase of “education and awareness” during which authorities will communicate the coming changes to the public.

Independent road safety expert Chariya Ear welcomed the tougher penalties, suggesting the current level of fines was inadequate to deter motorists from offending.

“The increase of fines can help reduce crashes and make road users respect the law. They might think a 3,000 riel fine is acceptable for them,” he said.

However, Ear also warned that increased penalties could exacerbate corruption among traffic police, who commonly pocket fines.

“A clear mechanism to monitor them, such as having a hotline for people to report wrong-doing by officials, is needed,” he said.

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