It has been almost a year since Phon Darany, 35, lost her husband to a horrific road accident by Phnom Penh’s riverside. Her two young daughters, aged 3 and 4, don’t know anything about the circumstances of their father’s death.
“They just keep asking for papa,” she said yesterday.
Her husband, Sroy Nika, a journalist at the Cambodian News Channel (CNC), was just one of 1,780 people killed in traffic accidents in the Kingdom last year. In all of 2017, there were only three days without a recorded death on Cambodia’s roads.
The figure is a marginal increase on the 2016 death toll of 1,717, though it represents a drop from the death toll in 2015, which exceeded 2,200.
Although there was an uptick in deaths last year, there were fewer accidents and injuries, with 3,531 accidents recorded in 2017 compared with 3,700 in 2016, resulting in 5,539 injuries, down from 6,607.
Run Rath Veasna, head of the Interior Ministry’s Department of Traffic and Public Order, downplayed the increase in deaths. “If we look at the new vehicles that get registered, the number of deaths on average is not high because every month, more than 20,000 vehicles get registered,” he said.
Drink driving and speeding were the main causes of death on the roads and the vast majority were motorcyclists, he said. “If we look at last month, the death of motorcyclists was up to 133 people [out of 163] . . . and out of these 133 deaths, 110 were driving without a helmet.”
As part of a national action plan, Cambodia pledged to halve its 2010 road death toll (of 1,816) by 2020, aiming for a decrease of 5 percent per year. But Ear Chariya, founding director of the Institute for Road Safety, said it was increasingly unlikely Cambodia would reach that target.
“We observed that in 2017, there was almost no enforcement on drink driving and speeding,” which are key factors in more than 60 percent of road deaths, Chariya said.
He added that the lower death toll in 2016 and 2017, after spikes in 2014 and 2015, could not be wholly attributed to the patchy implementation of the new Traffic Law and may not represent the true figure, as Handicap International no longer assisted the government with data collection as it had in the past.
For the widowed Darany, a lack of respect for the traffic law and the ambivalence of the authorities were to blame for her husband’s death.
“From the day he died to today, the traffic is still bad. I want the authorities to make the law more effective in 2018. I don’t want people to lose their lives and family members,” she said.
Additional reporting by Erin Handley