Cambodia's draft traffic law, now being reviewed by a parliamentary commission,
will introduce a drink-drive limit, make wearing seatbelts and helmets
mandatory, and increase fines for breaking the regulations.
Kim San, the
president of the National Assembly's commission of public works, transport,
industry and telecommunications, said it would likely be approved by the
commission next month.
It would then be sent to MPs for approval, which
should happen before the general election due in July 2003, said Ung Chun Hour,
director of the land transport department at the Ministry of Public Works and
"We were inspired by neighboring countries and ASEAN
members, and compared speed limits and alcohol concentration," Hour said. "The
1991 laws banned drivers from drunk driving, but did not state an acceptable
Driving with a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.5
grams per liter of blood will be prohibited, and drivers who have more than 0.8
grams alcohol concentration face possible imprisonment for up to one year and
fines ranging between 50,000 riel ($12.80) and 1 million riel ($256.40).
The penalties for drunk driving under the existing laws are far lower,
between 1,500 riel (38 cents) and 12,000 riel ($3.08). If an accident results in
death, then under the new law a drunk driver may be imprisoned for up to three
years and fined the maximum penalty of 6 million riel ($1,538).
law, which was adopted by the Council of Ministers in February, is an attempt to
bring Cambodia's traffic in line with the rest of the region, and draws on
articles from UN road traffic conventions.
If the limits are enforced,
the law will likely lead to big changes in the driving behavior of local
residents and expatriates. The likelihood of police being able to enforce the
law, Hour admitted, would be hampered by the lack of modern equipment such as
speed cameras and breath-testing equipment.
The government, he said,
would try to buy blood alcohol level detectors by the time the law was
"Our police get salaries that are not enough to feed their
families so naturally there is corruption," Hour said. "The young generation
grew up in the Pol Pot era with jungle law and were not educated about social
and traffic rules, so there are also a lot of law breakers on the
The draft proposes traffic violation fines ranging from 5,000
riel ($1.28) to 6 million riel ($1,538), much higher than the current level
between 500 riel (13 cents) and a maximum 40,000 riel ($10.25). It will also
require drivers of 49cc motorbikes and above to obtain licenses.
innovation is a points system similar to those in many Western countries, with
demerit points given to drivers breaking the law and licenses being revoked when
12 points have been accrued.
A major traffic issue plaguing the
government has been the widespread use of right-hand-drive (RHD) vehicles,
despite the fact it has been illegal to import any since 1995. Driving any RHD
vehicles, which account for 30 percent of the country's car traffic, was
outlawed in January last year.
According to the government the worst
offenders are owners of those cars imported after 1999: no import tax has been
paid on these vehicles, they are not registered, and they do not have license
The secretary of the Joint Inter-Ministerial Committee for
Solving Issues of Right Steering Wheel Vehicles, Leng Thun Yuthea, admitted that
these cars were still being imported. He said 8,600 inspection stickers had been
placed on RHD vehicles since January.
"After we have counted the cars
the committee will propose what action the government should take," Yuthea said.
"The process has been slow but acceptable."
One government official said
enforcing any provisions against RHD vehicles could prove difficult, since
Cambodians who are able to afford the luxury four-wheel-drive models or Toyota
Camry sedans are generally influential.
"Those carrying out the
clandestine activities are backed by the army and many car owners are also
strong army people," he said. "The government is powerless to stop
Another issue the draft law is meant to tackle is the high death
rate on the country's roads. Official statistics show that jumped 16 percent
last year with 459 dead and 4,184 injured, but even the government says the real
figure is at least twice that.
Cambodia's fellow ASEAN nations have
agreed on a road safety target of no more than 10 fatalities per 10,000
vehicles. Cambodia has the highest rate of 12.08 fatalities per 10,000 vehicles,
with Vietnam close behind on 10.77. Cambodia's road deaths are running at more
than twice Malaysia's figure, and almost seven times that of wealthy
"We are very worried about the number of deaths," said Hour at
the transport department. "Prime Minister Hun Sen has said that deaths caused by
road accidents are second only to those caused by HIV/AIDS."