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Helmet law crackdown ensnares thousands, Interior Ministry says

Helmet law crackdown ensnares thousands, Interior Ministry says

PHNOM Penh Traffic Police fined 14,269 motorbike drivers for not wearing helmets in January as part of an effort to ramp up enforcement of a regulation mandating the usage of helmets that went into effect more than a year ago, according to a newly released report from the Interior Ministry.

Him Yan, director of the ministry’s Department of Public Order, said Wednesday that local police would continue to enforce the helmet regulation for motorbike drivers.

“An increased focus on enforcement will continue as a way to educate and punish those who insist on riding without helmets,” he said.

Under an amendment to the Land Traffic Law that was introduced in January 2009, all motorbike drivers must wear helmets or pay a fine of 3,000 riels (US$0.73).

But road safety advocates say the effectiveness of the law has been hindered by spotty enforcement, a problem that persists in part because Traffic Police rarely work at night.

“Ninety percent of people use helmets during the day, but only around 40 percent wear helmets at night,” Him Yan said. “People are afraid that police will fine them, but they don’t wear them at night because Traffic Police do not work then.”

Chev Hak, deputy chief of the Phnom Penh Traffic Police, said people were now starting to understand the law.

“We have started to deploy Traffic Police at night to catch those who abuse the law. Traffic accidents happen more at night.”