Injured motorists receive emergency medical treatment following an accident in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post
The striking number of Cambodian motorbike drivers and passengers still travelling without a helmet is creating a significant public health issue that needs remedied, a new report shows.
Observations by a team of international researchers of about 100,000 motor cyclists throughout Cambodia revealed that only one out of every four drivers wore a helmet when driving at night and just 48 per cent wore helmets during the daytime, according to a report published in Traffic Injury Prevention.
According to the World Health Organization, road fatalities in Cambodia have increased by more than 40 per cent over the past five years.
Rather than a lack of knowledge about the “life-saving potential” of helmets, or a lack of access to helmets, the report contends that “inconsistent enforcement” of the Kingdom’s helmet law, which fines drivers 3,000 riels if they are not wearing a helmet, could be a significant factor.
The study also found that drivers were 10 times more likely to wear a helmet than passengers.
Such low rates could be remedied by improved legislation, the report recommends.
“Though we have seen that a law for drivers alone does not result in universal usage, one would expect helmet use to increase among passengers if the law also included this high-risk group.”
Efforts are now under way at adding an amendment to the Kingdom’s traffic law that would require passengers to also wear helmets.
Kim Yideth, deputy director of the public order at the Ministry of Interior, told the Post yesterday that he would be meeting with lawmakers from the Council of Ministers this morning to discuss such legislation.
Chloe Denavit, communications coordinator for the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, noted that due to the inconsistencies in enforcement mentioned above, “an amendment to the law, while absolutely crucial, may not be enough on its own”.
“Public education must accompany this amendment, and target adults, children, and traffic police officers alike,” she said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kristin Lynch at [email protected]