By 6pm in the evening on October 1 – the first day that the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway was open to the public – around 9,000 vehicles had already tried it out. They did so free of charge as the tolls will be exempted during the month of October.

Of those 9,000 vehicles, only 30 motorists were caught violating the rules and had to be issued with warnings and instruction.

The 187.05km expressway reduces the time spent travelling between the capital and Sihanoukville from five or six hours on National Road 4 to just two hours.

Ministry of Public Works and Transport secretary of state Heang Sotheayut told The Post on October 2 that the first day saw some issues with drivers speeding and driving in the wrong lane as well as some motorbike drivers with an engine capacity of less than 500cc.

“On October 1, we had few real problems on the expressway. Drivers called the 1399 hotline for help with broken down cars and other issues,” he said, noting that there were no major traffic accidents, though police had educated 30 drivers for not respecting the expressway rules.

Sotheayut urged all road users to check their vehicles before setting out, especially on the expressway as it has only four gas stations to stop at along the route.

“There were no accidents on the first day, which is a good sign showing that our commuters are paying attention to the rules. But we also saw some people exceeding the speed limit and even taking photos of their speedometer to boast about it. This is not good behaviour and we urge them to stop doing this immediately for their own safety,” he said.

The spokesman also called on traffic police standing by on the road to be tolerant and educate users rather than fining them for now. He also called on local authorities to prevent local people from letting animals cross the road by cutting holes in the fence along the expressway.

Kim Pagna, director of the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation (AIP), said the violation by some motorists could be due to a lack of information or their excitement about the new expressway and these issues are what the transport ministry needs to work on to avoid future dangers.

Venerable Samm Daro, who followed the news on the first day of the expressway’s public opening, was of the view that more education on the use of the road would be necessary as he observed that some drivers exceeded the limited speed while some others had travelled under the minimum speed, which can be just as dangerous on an expressway.

“I heard that some people had broken down the fence in order to run businesses along the roadside. If this is true and it is allowed to continue, then the expressway’s operation will fail because it will become a normal road upon which vehicles cannot consistently drive fast,” he said.

Seun Reaksmey, a university student, said the expressway is very useful as it reduces travelling time, but more education on the rules needs to be done along with more traffic signs.

She said, however, that the expressway had also cut off communications between people living on either side of the road, and that although it is not a major issue, it would be good to build more overpasses for them to use.

According to the transport ministry, from November 1 the tolls for using the expressway will be between $12 and $60 depending on the type of vehicle. Some people have said the tolls are too high, while others find them acceptable.