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Update to road law set to raise penalties


Photo by: Sovan Philong

New regulations drafted by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport would introduce fines for helmetless motorbike passengers and raise existing fines for motorbike drivers.

A DRAFT of amendments to the Land Traffic Law – including an increase in fines for violators as well as a requirement that passengers on motorbikes wear helmets – has been finalised, officials at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport said Thursday.

Preap Chanvibol, director of the ministry’s Land Transport Department, said the draft is set to be delivered to Minister Tram Eav Toek this week.

“Now I am preparing to send a copy of the law to the minister so he can review it before he submits it to legal experts at the Council of Ministers,” he said.

The draft, obtained Thursday, calls for the addition of two new articles and amendments to 24 of 95 pre-existing articles, he said, and added that an inter-ministerial working group had signed off on the document on May 27.

An amendment to the law implemented in January 2009 introduced a fine of 3,000 riels for helmetless motorbike drivers.

If the new draft is approved, that fine will be increased to 21,000 riels (about $5), and will also be applied to passengers.

This last change in particular was praised by road safety activists Thursday.

Sann Socheata, road safety programme manager for the Cambodian branch of Handicap International Belgium (HIB), said that her organisation had pushed for a helmet requirement for passengers since the first helmet regulation went into effect.

“What we recommend the most is to make sure helmet use is required for motorbike passengers, including children,” she said. “We have seen that there have been less head injuries for drivers since the law requiring them to wear helmets was introduced, but why should only drivers be protected? Why not passengers too, especially children?”

Motorbike accidents accounted for around 70 percent of traffic fatalities last year, and 80 percent of the dead succumbed to head injuries, she said, and added that this number would be greatly reduced if more drivers and passengers wore helmets.

“We would like the fines to be increased because, based on our experience and regional comparisons, higher fines mean people have more respect for the law, and this leads to fewer fatalities,” she said.

She added that high fines and strong enforcement in Vietnam have led to almost 100 percent compliance with helmet laws. “The fine for not wearing a helmet in Vietnam is more than $10; here it is less than $1,” she said.

And she noted that 86 percent of more than 300 people surveyed by HIB in Phnom Penh last year said that higher fines would prompt them to wear helmets more often.

Only 4 percent of those surveyed said higher fines would have no effect, and 10 percent said they were not sure.

The draft produced by the ministry stipulates that all fines – not just those pertaining to helmet regulations – would be increased.

But Ouk Kimlek, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, noted that the Council of Ministers may yet decide to revise the amount by which fines are increased.

Kim Yideth, deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s Department of Public Order, which controls traffic police, said his department had requested an amendment to increase fines, but that some officials at the Interior Ministry do not believe the increase proposed by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport was reasonable.

Instead, he said, these officials believe police should focus on collecting fines at their existing levels.

“Our police suggested the point, but the Ministry of Interior says the fines are too much if we increase them, and that the current fine is OK,” he said.

One of the two new articles included in the draft would require that drivers only operate vehicles registered in their own names, and the other would make it easier for insured drivers to retrieve their cars after collisions.



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