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'Worst road deaths in ASEAN' - govt

The Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT) has said the country's road

death rate could well be the worst of any in the region, and expects the

situation will get worse.

Figures from the MPWT's land transport

department show that 491 people died on the roads between January and November

2002, compared with 459 in all twelve months of the previous year. There were a

total 3,013 accidents in the recorded 2002 period, causing 4,700

injuries.

The only good news is that the number of deaths has been

increasing at a slower rate than the number of injuries. In 1997 the proportion

of deaths to injuries was 1:5. For 2002 it was 1:10.

The 2002 figures

include deaths recorded in five provinces for December. For that reason, said

the department's deputy director-general, the final toll would likely be higher

once the remaining provinces submitted their data.

Ung Chun Hour added

that the true fatality figure could be higher by as much as 20 percent. He is

set to attend an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) road safety

conference in Bangkok in March and is concerned at the unreliability of his

statistics.

"I don't know how I will report to the group about best

practices, because we have a lot of problems with getting an efficient measure

of road accidents," he said. "We have a lot of law breakers, and the policemen

cannot enforce the traffic law - they have no equipment."

Geoff Gowers,

chief resident engineer of SMEC, an Australian engineering firm, said road

safety would always come second to enforcement. Road rule infringements, he

said, were seldom punished.

"If the road law says you have to go through

a village at 60 kilometers an hour, who's going to enforce it?" he asked. "The

roads are fine - it is just the lack of enforcement."

The ADB's deputy

country head, Anthony Jude, said road accidents last year cost ASEAN nations

around 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), some $11 billion.

"The

government needs to take some responsibility in enforcing road rules - it could

be a good source of revenue," he said.

The government is drafting a

sub-decree to tackle the issue, and it should be ready by mid-year.

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