Road deaths are all too common in Cambodia. Almost every day we hear about accidents on the radio, see coverage of crashes on television or read about collisions in newspapers and magazines.
The Traffic Authority recently detailed the main causes for accidents on the road. According to the department, 94 per cent of traffic accidents are caused by human error, such as going over the speed limit, drunk driving, carelessness and simply evading rights of way or traffic lights. The underlying issue however, is the thought here that drivers hold a distinct lack of morality and responsibility while behind the wheel.
Sreng Len is 50 and travels by motorbike regularly. He says that despite his own awareness and careful attitude, he is fearful of other, reckless motorists. Len obeys the law; he takes note of traffic lights. But he is often overtaken by others in dangerous situations, especially by those who are under 30, and they subsequently put Len at risk – as well as themselves.
He says that some road users ignore lights, rights of way and lanes. All they care about is going faster and going first.
A 22-year-old woman, not to be named, who is studying at the Technical School of Medical Care told the Post that many drivers do not respect other travellers. She said that drivers compete to be in front, ignore simple road rules and have no regard for their own – or other peoples’ – safety.
She said, “sometimes the road is so stuffy and the traffic is so awful, I can hardly breathe. Some drivers use their horns so loudly, want to be first and overtake others with no care for others. I have experience bumps in the past, where drivers have hit my moto and almost knocked me down.”
Only a few weeks ago, Facebook and other social media sites were emblazoned with the news that a young lady, the daughter of a famous doctor caused an accident near the Independence Monument while driving her ‘luxury car.’ She hit a number of fellow motorists; injuring several and leaving others dead.
In a separate incident, which took place just last week and was reported in the Post on March 21, a car race, unsurprisingly, ended in a crash. When journalists arrived on the scene, some of the competitors beat reporters. It was evident those involved didn’t want the press to highlight their careless and dangerous actions.
But these are not the only stories of Cambodian people suffering while on the road. Hundreds of other lives suffer because of carelessness; bad driving causing accidents such as those reported here that are both tragic and easily avoided. And it isn’t just the loss of a life or the injuries that the people impacted have to deal with. At times, losing a family member means financial hardship too – when the person killed or injured has mouths to feed and bills to pay.
Chev Hak, Deputy Chief of Phnom Penh Traffic Police says knowing how to drive is not enough. Drivers must respect other road users and noted, as many have done, that morality is key. He added that although there is no written law to punish a lack of morality, motorists can be sure to answer to those that are in place, such as lights, lanes and priorities. A driving licence is one thing, he added, but of equal importance is the attitude to driving and the discipline to acknowledge road safety.
“In order to reduce accident rates and traffic jams, everyone who travels along the road should obey the law, have morality and remember that today and tomorrow should not see road accidents,” Hak said.