Thirty-five people were injured, three seriously so, after the van in which they were travelling, a vehicle designed to hold just 15 passengers, overturned in Stung Treng province on Sunday.
After suffering a tyre puncture, the severely overloaded vehicle flipped while attempting to negotiate a curve in Sesan district, according to deputy district police chief Peng Sovanroth.
The van, headed to Ratanakkiri province from Phnom Penh, was found upside down and partially submerged in a canal, he said, chalking it up to the “carelessness of the driver”.
While it’s against the law to load a vehicle beyond capacity, both police and NGOs admit the law is routinely flouted.
For Ear Chariya, road safety program manager for Handicap International, which develops and introduces safety initiatives in the Kingdom, it comes down to simple economics.
“Drivers want to make more money, and passengers don’t want pay so much for each trip,” he said yesterday, noting that police officers at checkpoints often look the other way when they see overloaded vehicles.
“They understand that people here cannot afford to pay higher fares,” he said, quickly adding that drivers and passengers need to be made aware of the dangers they face riding in or driving overloaded vehicles.
National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith told the Post yesterday that in regards to enforcement, the police have their hands tied.
“In principle, the law does not allow drivers to take more passengers than their vehicles can accommodate,” he said. “But it is difficult to enforce – the reality is that there is a lack of cheap transportation available.”
Police officers are instructed to check for overloaded vehicles, but a fine balance needed to be struck between recognising people’s needs and enforcing the law, he said.
“We are trying to solve this problem.”
Among the injured in Sunday’s wreck were 12 women and a French national.
The van has been impounded for investigation and the driver was asked to compensate the injured passengers, said Nov Vanny, deputy director of the provincial traffic police.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kim Sarom and Danson Cheong at [email protected]