Cambodia is facing different difficulties and hurdles as the Kingdom makes steady progress towards development. Perhaps the most challenging of these obstacles is regulating traffic for a staggering 1.4 million registered vehicles.
Nearly 80 per cent of traffic accidents involve motorbikes. There are fatalities in over 70 per cent of those accidents, usually resulting from head injury.
Handicap International Belgium calculated that these traffic accidents cost Cambodia about US$248 million in damages, in 2009 alone.
According to the recent Cambodia National Road Safety Action Plan, four people die every-day from traffic accidents. Fatalities increased doubly over the past five years, and half of traffic accidents can be attributed to speeding while nearly 20 per cent can be attributed to driving while drunk.
The Cambodia National Road Safety Action Plan was implemented in mid-2011 and will measure road safety until 2020. Unlike the first action plan from 2004 to 2010, this action plan is based on international framework.
The three main indicators to measure road safety are the use of helmets and the frequency of both speeding and drink driving.
A major goal of the action plan is to reduce the number of fatalities caused by head injuries by 30 per cent, and increase the rate of helmet use to 85 per cent, by 2020. The government has named this part of the program the Decade of Action for Road Safety.
Though there are strongly enforced rules for wearing a helmet while driving a motorbike, many young Cambodians still won’t wear one. They are afraid of not looking cool on their modern bikes, or messing up their hairstyles. Most people today are only wearing a helmet to avoid a fine; it is not out of concern for their own safety.
Even more, many are disregarding the speed limit set by the law. People are speeding especially at night-time, because there are fewer policemen on the street. The news has been reporting lately that motorbike drivers are speeding into trucks.
Drink driving is another problem we’re faced with on the streets. After a beer-soaked dinner or a booze-fuelled party with friends, people are still hopping on their motorbikes and driving.
Of course, it’s becoming apparent that drivers, even those who aren’t drunk, just don’t pay attention to the road. Some motorbike drivers are talking on the phone or listening to loud music on the radio.
Some others only respect traffic rules if a policeman is around. If no policeman is present, drivers often run through stop lights, drive against traffic and cut through pedestrian walkways, with a complete disregard for traffic law.
As young Cambodians, and as citizens, we need to abide by traffic law for anything to change. We need to value life by driving safely. There’s no reason for the number of fatalities and injuries to be so high, especially when we can make a change so easily.