Municipal traffic police established nighttime drunken-driving checkpoints in all eight districts of the capital over the weekend, stopping nearly 100 drivers and fining four of them.
Chev Hak, deputy chief of the municipal traffic police, said the checkpoints had operated between 6.30pm and 11pm in Phnom Penh on both Friday and Saturday nights.
National Police Chief Neth Savoeun had originally called for the checkpoints to be set up on September 1 in Phnom Penh and also in Kandal and Kampong Speu provinces.
But the plan was pushed back one month so police could receive training on how to man checkpoints and operate breath analysers.
Chev Hak said the breath analysers had not yet been delivered to the two provinces, and that he suspected checkpoints would be established in both shortly after the Pchum Ben holiday.
He said that on Friday police “checked with 47 car drivers and 11 motorbike drivers, and we fined four people – three motorbike drivers and one car driver”.
“They drove with a rate of alcohol over what the law allowed,” he said.
Under the Law on Land Traffic, drivers can be subject to fines if they are caught driving with an “alcoholic rate from 0.25 to 0.39 [milligrams] per litre of air or 0.50 to 0.79 [grams] per litre of blood”. The law calls for fines ranging between 6,000 riels and 25,000 riels (about US$1.50 to $6) for drunken driving, depending on vehicle type.
Chev Hak said 20 motorbike drivers and 12 car drivers were pulled over on Saturday, but that none were found to have consumed too much alcohol. He expressed optimism that the checkpoints – which police intend to operate nationwide – would reduce traffic accidents and fatalities “all over the country”.
Sann Socheata, road safety programme manager for Handicap International Belgium, echoed this sentiment, saying that drunken driving was the second most common cause of accidents behind speeding.
“I believe that the traffic accidents which are caused by drunk driving will be reduced after we check and fine people who drink and drive,” she said.
The Road Crash and Victim Information System, which collects data from traffic police and health facilities, recorded 12,538 crashes last year, resulting in 21,519 casualties. Of those casualties, 2,353 are believed to have been caused by drunken driving.
Van Chansophal, a 34-year-old who works in the private sector in Phnom Penh and who did not want his company identified, said that the checkpoints would likely prompt him to alter his nightly routine.
On a typical night, he said, he enjoys meeting his friends to drink beer after work. “Normally, I drink eight or more cans of beer at one time. I like going out to drink until I am deeply drunk; then I stop drinking and come back home,” he said.
He said that he supported the checkpoints, and that from now on he would have relatives come to socialise with him and drive him home.
“I will try to change my habit because I am afraid that the traffic police will fine me,” Van Chansophal said.