Those who use non-standard forms of transport for travel on Cambodia’s roads at night, such as carts pulled by people or oxen, bicycles, motorcycles, trailers, rice tractors and other older vehicles that do not have sufficient lighting, should always fix light-reflecting signs or stickers to their conveyances to avoid accidents, but many of them still do not follow this practice and often use makeshift replacements such as old Compact Discs (CDs).
In 2016, after Prime Minister Hun Sen brought attention to the subject, many reflective stickers were distributed to people using ox carts, horse carts and rice tractors in the countryside. That reflective sticker distribution campaign to people in rural areas continues to this day, but the quantity given out depends on the number of people making requests.
The original traffic safety reflective sticker distribution campaign was officially announced by Prime Minister Hun Sen at the inauguration of National Road 44 in Kampong Speu province back in 2016. After the announcement, the transport ministry launched a campaign to distribute around three million free reflective stickers to people to fix onto all types of conveyances to reduce traffic accidents at night.
Boran Sathya, deputy chief in charge of road safety, said that in 2016 the Ministry of Public Works and Transport had a total of 2,909,473 reflective stickers and 2,562,343 reflective stickers were distributed by the departments of public works and transport in the capital and provinces since then.
In 2021, a total of 52,000 reflective stickers were given out and in 2022 a total of 115,000 reflective stickers were distributed in response to requests from the department of public works and transport in 12 provinces.
According to the deputy chief in charge of road safety, in 2022, the transport ministry as well as the National Road Safety Committee (NRSC), received 50,000 reflective stickers from Total Energies. These reflective stickers will be distributed to the departments of public works and transport in the capital and provinces to continue handing them out to reduce road accidents at night.
“For the campaign, the team went to people’s houses to promote traffic safety, as well as to fix reflective stickers onto motorcycles and bicycles without adequate lights, and also fix reflective stickers onto ox carts, horse carts, and tractors,” he said.
He added that the transport ministry will keep trying to obtain more reflective stickers from sponsors such as NGOs or private companies to continue to provide to people free of charge in order to reduce traffic accidents at night.
Kim Pagna, director of Asian Injury Prevention Foundation in Cambodia said that his organisation has looked into providing reflective stickers, but so far has not received any support from partners in the form of donations of them.
However, he said his organisation is promoting use of the stickers for worker transport trucks because some of the worker transport trucks were built for transporting goods instead of people, and they need to add more safety features so that other vehicles can see the trucks more easily at night to avoid accidents.
Panha said he noticed that the Ministry of Public Works and Transport has made a lot of efforts, especially the Sun Chanthol, who called on private companies that can produce these items to donate some for distribution to the people and to the campaign launched by the department of public works as well as the capital-provincial sub-committees on road safety to fix reflective stickers on some trucks.
However, Panha also stated that fixing reflective stickers onto different forms of transport would not be enough to ensure road safety. Firstly, because many of the reflective stickers being used are old and secondly, because some people will be negligent about using them even if they are given away for free.
According to Panha, if individuals or the relevant authorities need stickers they should contact the transport ministry or their local transport department to request them.
“I believe that the ministry and related institutions, if they see a need, definitely they will provide or seek support from partners to produce more reflective stickers to be fixed on transport without adequate lights,” he said.
Kim Pagna added that any shortage of reflective stickers could also lead to serious accidents, because if the transports are travelling from opposite directions or in dark places they cannot see other vehicles clearly which can be dangerous and the accidents are likely to involve critical injuries to some parties if travelling at full speed.
According to Panha, not just motorists but also pedestrians can sometimes be in danger too, because people don’t often wear shirts with reflective surfaces at night as recommended.
“Besides fixing reflective stickers on all means of transport, there should be adequate road lighting and guidance on how to wear light-reflecting clothing, so drivers can quickly and easily spot pedestrians walking at night, along the roadside for instance,” he said.
Sun Cheko, a resident of Sangkat Phleung Cheh Roteh in Khan Kampoul of Phnom Penh said that there was still a small number of carts, especially cart owners who have not fixed lights or fixed other reflective stickers to their conveyances, but not very many in Phnom Penh.
“In the past, there were a few problems related to not using reflective signs, which led to some traffic accidents, but they were not serious accidents, at least not the ones I’ve seen,” he said.
Cheko said that people who use trailers should fix reflective stickers onto them of their own initiative because such stickers can easily be bought in the city and the price is not expensive, while it may save them from injury or their property from being destroyed.
“We can buy reflective things such as bike pedals, or other reflective signs which other drivers can easily notice. There’s no need to use CDs as before because now we can use the new safety items which work better and are not expensive,” he said.
Khim Hul, Sla commune chief in Takeo province’s Samrong district, said that reflective stickers received through the ministry were distributed to people who used tractors, trailers and carts continually, but lately it’s been noticed that people are no longer asking for reflective stickers.
“We still have reflective stickers for distribution to the people, but there are no requests. However, sometimes they don’t ask us but when we see them we give them to them and help them fix them onto their vehicles, especially trailers and rice tractors,” he said.
The Sla commune chief added that now traffic accidents caused by collisions due to the lack of reflectors or lights are far fewer than in the past and people seem to mostly understand and know how to fix rear lights and reflective stickers onto their respective transports now from past campaigns.
Khoeun Noeun, a producer of all kinds of carts and trailers at his shop on street 271 in Sangkat Phsar Doeum Thkov of Khan Chamkarmon in Phnom Penh, said that now there are too many cart producers and far fewer customers than in the past. He added that in his line of work the authorities do not prohibit or limit production while inspecting locations they just ask that they do not sell them on the roadside.
“We have a proper place to produce and store carts, and if the buyer wants us to fix rear lights onto them we can do that, or if the buyer wants to fix them on by himself that’s okay, but as for the reflective stickers, I have never done it for them and have always let the buyers fix those light reflecting stickers by themselves,” he said.