With the Lunar New Year holiday set to take place on January 22-24, Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed concern about road traffic accidents and fires and appealed to people to be careful during the celebrations.

While inspecting the progress of the construction of the National Techo Peace Hospital in Kouk Roka commune in Phnom Penh’s Prek Pnov district on January 19, Hun Sen said Covid-19 remains a concern, but the deepest concern at this time during the New Year celebrations is road accidents and fires.

“I ask the people to pay close attention and obey the traffic laws when travelling. Don’t try to overtake other drivers recklessly. Don’t drive while drunk. We must have mutual understanding and stay alert to prevent road accidents from occurring. Don’t let a happy moment become a tragic one,” he said.

The premier also called on the people to excise increased caution to prevent fires due to negligence and to curb the spread of Covid-19 and follow the instructions of the Ministry of Health.

He said that at present, the problem of road traffic accidents is the main concern for the government to address because death toll continues to rise.

Kim Pagna, country director of the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation (AIP), said the problem of road accidents is primarily caused by speeding, failure to observe the right of way, dangerous overtaking, ignoring traffic signs, driving under the influence of alcohol and failing to wear a seatbelt or helmet.

“All these points are triggered by some drivers who do not obey the road traffic law, have a lack of attention or mutual understanding. So we see road accidents still occur every day,” he said.

Commemorating the 17th World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said the past year saw five deaths from road accidents per day and 13 injuries, compared to 2021 with four deaths and 10 injuries per day.

“The number of casualties and disabilities from the road traffic accidents has increased, especially during main celebrations and over the weekend. The accidents occurred due to three main factors: human error, vehicles and roads that have failed to respond to the growth of vehicles,” he said.

Sar Kheng, who is also the National Road Safety Committee (NRSC) chairman, said the rate of traffic accidents had dropped in 2020 and 2021, compared to 2019.

“Road users have the spirit of obeying the road traffic laws, resulting in a decline of offences and fines from 2,000 cases per day in 2020 to 300 cases per day in 2022,” he stated.

In 2022, after the Covid-19 situation abated, traffic became heavy again and road traffic accidents also increased, resulting in five deaths and 13 injuries per day. The year 2021 saw four deaths and 10 injuries per day with an annual growth of vehicles on the roads of over 10 per cent.

Most of the deceased were motorcyclists, accounting for 79 per cent – and 74 per cent of them were helmetless, according to Sar Kheng.