Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday signed a sub-decree stipulating that first-time traffic violations will no longer be punishable with jail time, yet another softening of the ostensibly tougher Traffic Law that went into effect at the start of last year.
First-time drunk driving incidents, for instance, will now only require a fine, so long as the driver has not harmed others.
“In the past, if the driver is over 0.40 mg/L, the driver must be sent to the court, but now the police will fine them instead,” said Ty Long, of the Interior Ministry’s Public Order Department. He added that public criticism that jail sentences for traffic violations were too severe prompted the change.
Under the sub-decree, a driver can be imprisoned for breaking the law twice in six months. “If the driver commits [the crime] a second time, we will prosecute them in court,” Long said.
Ear Chariya, director of the Institute for Road Safety, said that taking away the prospect of jail for drunk drivers will only encourage dangerous behaviour. “The offender is not afraid of the fine, but of prison,” he said, though “in the past, it was rare to send drunk drivers to court”.