Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Fatal crash puts light on right-hand steering loophole

Fatal crash puts light on right-hand steering loophole

People gather around the wreckage of a Mekong Express minibus that was destroyed in a collision with a right-hand-steering truck that left nine dead in Battambang province on Monday. Photo supplied
People gather around the wreckage of a Mekong Express minibus that was destroyed in a collision with a right-hand-steering truck that left nine dead in Battambang province on Monday. Photo supplied

Fatal crash puts light on right-hand steering loophole

After a tragic crash claimed the lives of nine people in Battambang on Monday, attention has fallen on a recent legal loophole that allows potentially dangerous vehicles with right-hand steering to remain on Cambodian roads.

Nine people were killed in the collision between a Mekong Express minibus and a truck with right-hand steering, which is designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road.

Battambang traffic police chief San Kimsan said the truck was mostly to blame – explaining that because it was a right-hand-driving vehicle, it had to veer all the way into a lane of oncoming cars in order to be able to see the traffic while overtaking.

However, he added, the Mekong Express bus was driving at a speed of more than 100 kilometres per hour, which also contributed to the deaths.

Although importing new right-hand-steering vehicles is illegal, Prime Minister Hun Sen in January made an exception for any such vehicles that were already in the country, provided they were registered with the Ministry of Transportation and sported a special red number plate.

However, the truck involved in Monday’s smash carried no number plate at all.

Transport Ministry director-general Chan Dara said the issue could become complicated near the border, because Thailand traffic sticks to the left-hand side of the road and so favours right-hand side steering columns. The opposite is the case in Cambodia.

He said only a small amount of right-hand vehicles were being driven, but Ear Chariya, director of the Institute for Road Safety, disputed that. “There are already a large number of right-hand vehicles in Cambodia,” he said.

“There are some safety concerns and we should not encourage the right-hand vehicles on our roads, because it is difficult when it overtakes other vehicles,” he said.

Heang Saman, who runs a used-car dealership in Phnom Penh, said he had only a handful of right-hand steering column vehicles for sale. Though he noted they were not popular purchases, they are still regularly seen on Cambodian roads.

“Right or left, if the driver is careless, there will be an accident,” Saman said.

But the consequence of the exception for grandfathered-in right-hand vehicles could have a human cost, as in the case of Monday’s crash.

Among those killed in the collision was former Pannasastra University law student Heang Solinet, who had recently returned home from a year of study in Estonia.

Raymond Leos, dean of the faculty of communications and media arts, remembered her as an “exceptional” student, adding that Cambodia had lost a brilliant mind and a potential future leader.

“I’m devastated. She’s another victim of the carnage on Cambodia’s highways,” he said. “Cambodia can’t afford to lose young people of that calibre.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen: Full country reopening to be decided in two weeks

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that if the Covid-19 situation remains stable for 15 consecutive days from the end of the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, Cambodia will reopen fully, albeit in the context of Covid-19 whereby people have to adjust their lives to

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Cambodia unveils new quarantine regulations

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Phnom Penh governor: Show Covid-19 vaccination cards, or else

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng late on October 5 issued a directive requiring all people aged 18 and over and the parents of children aged 6-17 to produce Covid-19 vaccination cards when entering schools, markets, malls, marts, eateries and other business establishments that have been permitted

  • Cambodia seeks probe into 'false reports' on Hun Sen's alleged Cypriot passport

    Minister of Justice Koeut Rith on September 6 wrote a letter to his Cypriot counterpart Stephie Dracos requesting cooperation in investigating and providing the truth in relation to the "exaggerative and false allegations" that Prime Minister Hun Sen holds a Cypriot passport. In his letter, the