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Helmets flying off shelves ahead of new traffic law

Helmets flying off shelves ahead of new traffic law

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090102_03.jpg

City vendors reaping windfall from helmet requirement that govt says already has drastically increased their use

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON

A student tries on a new helmet in Phnom Penh earlier this week.

Phnom Penh vendors say helmet sales spiked in the weeks ahead of a new law requiring their use by motorbike commuters that came into effect on Thursday.

"Especially since the prime minister told people to wear helmets in his speech a couple weeks ago, a lot of people have come to buy helmets," said Eik Heang, a vendor near Deum Kor Market, adding that her daily sales have climbed from 10 to 40 helmets since last month.  

She said most customers spend about US$15 on helmets, though the price range of her selection varies from $5 to $150.

Eik Heang said the number of sellers has also spiked along with the rise in demand.

"I just opened a small shop last month and I can sell around 10 per day," said Suy Se, who also sells near Deum Kor Market. "It's good business."

The newly enacted Land Traffic Law states that "drivers of motorcycles, tricycles and motorcycles with trailers or remorques must wear helmets". Offenders will be fined 3,000 riels ($0.74) and have one of 12 points deducted from their driver's licence, the law stipulates.

According to the NGO Handicap International, in June 2008 less than a quarter of Cambodians wore helmets while commuting on motorbikes - a daunting statistic considering that motorbikes account for three of four road accidents in Cambodia, and 35 percent of traffic deaths result from head injures, according to statistics from the Interior Ministry.

The city's Traffic Police chief, Tin Prasoeur, said "it is a positive sign that people are showing respect for the law and the advice of their leader", but he singled out students as a problem group that generally refuses to wear helmets.

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