An average of 4.2 people died in traffic accidents each day last year, according to road safety monitor RTAVIS.
Traffic accident fatalities climbed dramatically in the first four months of this year, compared to the same period a year ago, with 596 people killed on the Kingdom’s roadways, said Sem Panhavuth, manager of the Road Traffic Accident and Victim Information System (RTAVIS).
The number of fatalities in April alone, at 176, represented a 21 percent increase over April 2007, Sem Panhavuth noted.
RTAVIS statistics indicate that the number of traffic deaths has more than tripled since 2001, with an average of 4.8 people per day dying in accidents during January and February of this year.
In its newly issued Annual Report 2007, RTAVIS stated that 9,449 accidents were counted in 2007, resulting in 1,545 deaths at an average of 4.2 fatalities per day.
In Phnom Penh, the number of traffic fatalities climbed by 54 percent from 2006 to 2007, according to the report, and local officials confirm that the number continues to rise alarmingly.
“About 900 traffic accidents occurred in Phnom Penh in the first six months of 2008, killing 139 people,” confirmed Phnom Penh municipal police Colonel Yin Sideth.
About 94 percent of all accidents were caused by human error, with speeding accounting for about half of all fatal accidents, followed by drunk driving, which accounted for 19 percent, the RTAVIS report said.
Motorbike drivers and passengers were particularly vulnerable in Cambodia, with over three-quarters of accident victims who suffer cranial trauma being motorbike riders. Child and pedestrian deaths were also mounting, according to the report.
Asia Injury Prevention (AIP) Foundation president Greig Craft, who has actively campaigned for mandatory helmet laws in Southeast Asia, hoped that Cambodia had learned from Vietnam’s experience of implementing such laws.
“Every week, we hear how children without helmets are dying in traffic accidents in Vietnam while their parents, who are required to wear helmets, survive,” Craft said.
“Road safety has become like a war in Cambodia. Accidents are much worse and many children have been injured and killed.”
To help address the problem, the AIP Foundation and ANZ Royal Bank donated 500 helmets to students at Aknoukwat Reachtheany Primary School on July 17 as part of their Helmets for Kids program.
ANZ Royal Bank community liaison manager Chan Rotha told the Post that it marked the bank’s fourth time donating helmets. “We have donated 2,000 helmets to children around Phnom Penh,” Chan Rotha said.
Aknoukwat Reachtheany Primary School fifth-grader Chhay Vouch Keang said, “We were very happy to get helmets, and we’ll wear them every day.”
The helmet-wearing habit was increasing, Sem Panhavuth said, but resistance to the idea has remained. “I didn’t like wearing a helmet because it messed up my hair,” said neurosurgery patient Huong Ly.
Road traffic accidents have an enormous impact on the social welfare of Cambodia, costing the economy an estimated $116 million, according to ADB figures.