Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on Sunday urged the relevant authorities to expend greater efforts to reduce traffic accidents that he said had increased at an alarming rate.
Speaking during the 14th World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims at the Koh Pich Convention and Exhibition Centre in Phnom Penh, Sar Kheng directed officials to study the root cause of road accidents and seek input from all stakeholders to address the issue.
“What caused road accidents to rise in 2018-19? Was it because of the rapidly increasing number of vehicles? Or were the accidents caused by drink driving?” he asked officials present at the event.
“There are some factors to consider. Some countries already have sufficient road infrastructure, but they still ban the sale of alcoholic drinks from 9pm.
“If people were to defy the ban, they would be held accountable before the law. We should study these measures thoroughly before putting them into practice.
“We have tried to address the issue, but road accidents have still risen. So we need to find out the root cause. The National Road Safety Committee has to look into this, and so does the provincial road safety committees.
“What is the main culprit? Is it because motorists disobey the traffic laws or are ignorant of them, or because of other factors? We need to study it thoroughly so that we can solve it more effectively,” he said.
While acknowledging the authorities’ shortcomings in addressing the issue, Sar Kheng called for concerted efforts and inputs from stakeholders including civil society organisations.
“If you have any suggestions or means to solve the problem, please help. It affects everyone and is not just a concern of any individual, group or political party,” he said.
A report issued by the National Police said there were 3,453 road accidents in the first 10 months of this year, an increase of 761 cases compared to the same period last year. The accidents left 1,665 dead and 5,212 injured, an increase of 151 and 1,006 respectively compared to the same period last year.
Phnom Penh saw the most casualties with 274 deaths in the first 10 months of this year, followed by Preah Sihanouk at 128, Kandal at 126 and Kampong Speu at 125.
Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng said the increasing number of vehicles, tendency to use personal vehicles instead of public transportation, improper use of roads and pavements, among others, were the main factors behind traffic congestion and traffic accidents in the capital.
“The increasing number of traffic accidents remains a serious concern. Areas in the suburbs saw more traffic accidents, so we need to pay greater attention to this,” he said.
To reduce road accidents, Sreng said the municipal hall had strictly implemented measures, including educating first offenders, imposing administrative measures on repeat offenders and taking legal action in more serious cases.
He said the municipal hall had also provided free training to 12,241 tuk-tuk drivers and educated them about traffic law.
Sreng said nearly three million vehicles had been registered in Phnom Penh alone. The number does not include vehicles belonging to the state, NGOS and embassies that travel on the capital’s roads spanning 1,883km.
Asia Injury Prevention (AIP) Foundation director Kim Pagna said the increasing number of traffic accidents remained a concern among national and international civil society organisations working on the issue.
“The authorities need to strictly punish lawbreakers. Instead of just imposing a fine, there should also be punishment in accordance with the law. Those who cause fatal road accidents must face legal action so they can learn their lesson,” he said.
Pagna called on the relevant institutions and pagodas to work together to include traffic safety education when monks preach Dharma, either at religious ceremonies or through media broadcasts throughout the country.
Police in each locality, he said, should also regularly educate residents about traffic laws.