Authorities are reportedly raking in hundreds of thousands of riels in fines as the city goes on offensive against violators
Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
A man buys a helmet at one of the many roadside shops that have opened following adoption of Cambodia’s helmet law.
PHNOM Penh's helment campaign opened strongly last week, with more than 120 violators nabbed on the first day alone as authorities try to reduce the number of head injuries, which they say are the leading cause of traffic deaths.
Under the new rule, motorcyclists not wearing a helmet face a 3,000 riel (US$0.73) fine and a one-point deduction on their licences.
"On the first day that the traffic police started to fine, we saw 124 motorbike drivers who did not wear helmets, and we collected 378,000 riels (US$92.62) in fines," said El Narin, deputy director of the Phnom Penh Traffic Police.
He maintained about 85 percent of drivers are now wearing helmets, even though the number of helmet wearers on Phnom Penh streets appears to be significantly lower.
In June 2008, less than a quarter of all drivers wore helmets, according to the NGO Handicap International Belgium.
Authorities will expand the law soon to cover passengers as well.
"We fine drivers that don't wear helmets, and give passengers a warning," he said.
El Narin said officers are required to give a receipt for the fine and if they fail to do so, the offender can lodge a complaint at the police station.
Meas Chandy, a traffic safety officer at Handicap International, said he is pleased the government is implementing the law.
"There are many reasons people die in traffic accidents, but we have found that among the victims killed or injured, most are on motorbikes and 80 percent suffered head injuries," he said.
Handicap International spearheaded the effort to force Cambodian drivers to wear helmets on the country's unruly roads.
"I cannot say traffic accidents will be reduced after we implement the law by asking them to wear helmets," Meas Chandy said.
"But I think it can reduce head injuries."
The police crackdown has led to a surge in helmet sales, with roadside vendors springing up along Phnom Penh's main thoroughfares doing a brisk trade.