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Helmet use statistics promising, NGO finds

Students ride motorbikes without helmets outside Phnom Penh's Sisowath High School last year.
Students ride motorbikes without helmets outside Phnom Penh's Sisowath High School last year. Kimberley McCosker

Helmet use statistics promising, NGO finds

Despite the uneven enforcement of the new Traffic Law’s helmet requirements, rates of helmet use among moto drivers and passengers has risen substantially, according to statistics released by the AIP Foundation, although helmet use at night remains significantly lower.

Passenger helmet use rose from a baseline below 15 per cent in August 2015 to nearly 30 per cent by mid-January in both the dozen or so communes in Kandal, Kampong Speu and Phnom Penh where AIP implemented road safety education programs and the six communes measured as a control group.

“Rates were going up in December already in anticipation of the law coming into force,” said Katherine Klaric, development and compliance coordinator at AIP, adding “rates are lower than they could have been because enforcement was not stringent at the time of data collection, but they are going up”.

Although punishment for violators is currently suspended, helmet use among child passengers rose dramatically, from 0.06 per cent to 28.7 per cent in communes measured, according to AIP, noting that for drivers, helmet use rose from 63 per cent to 77 per cent.

However, “rates remain at a low 15 [per cent] during the critical period of the night when most road crashes typically occur”, the AIP release reads, noting the need for better law enforcement.

The deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s department of public order, Ty Long, yesterday agreed that night time yields the most accidents but defended efforts by authorities, maintaining that at night, police prioritise drunk drivers and helmet enforcement.

On the national roads, he said, enforcement alternates from one province to another. As for children, Long said that for the time being, fines will not be issued; but if public awareness campaigns yield unsatisfactory results, the option is on the table.

“If there is no change about children not wearing helmets . . . We will fine for children, too.”

Traffic Safety Institute director Ear Chariya said he viewed the results as positive, yet maintained that consistent enforcement is key, drawing a comparison to the success of stepped-up policing in Vietnam, when in 2007, helmet compliance jumped from 30 per cent to 90 per cent practically overnight.

“Enforcement needs to be throughout” he said, even for children. “The sooner, the better.”

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