Nearly a year after being signed into law, Cambodia’s new traffic code is just weeks from finally being enforced.
National Police chief Neth Savoeun yesterday said that drivers have had plenty of notice, and the time for implementation has come. As of January 1, fines for speeding, disobeying traffic signs, drunk driving and other infractions will increase fivefold.
Meanwhile, police, who have been pledged $0.70 of every dollar in fines they collect, are expected to step up efforts to stop and fine violators, though authorities were quick to tamp down expectations.
“Though we expect favourable results, it does not mean that [Traffic Law compliance] is going to be 100 per cent,” said Run Roth Veasna, director of the Interior Ministry’s department of regulation.
Veasna said that resources will be shifted to allow “hundreds” of additional traffic police to be newly deployed along national roads as well as increase their presence in the capital.
And despite concerns of potential shakedowns after the Interior Ministry’s July announcement of its new payment scheme, officers will be lenient when necessary, he insisted.
“We will look at mistakes that can be exempted or reduced.”
Veasna added that education about road safety and traffic laws is at a high level in the capital but lacking in rural areas.
“I saw that communities in many provinces seem to have no idea about the new law,” he said. “The government needs to address this.
I also think the government should consider reducing beer street ads along main roads and switch to educational signs.”
Multiple Phnom Penh drivers interviewed yesterday said that increasing police presence would make the most sense after dark, when traffic police are largely absent.
“There’s less traffic, but the traffic that’s there is more hazardous,” said Mervin Chin, a longtime expat who drives a motorbike. “[There are] no cops to regulate.”
But while drivers were largely supportive of the crackdown, there were elements of the law that prompted complaints.
Chea San, a motorbike taxi driver living near Central Market, griped about one newly established rule that will hit home, a fine for drivers who don’t have a helmet for their passengers.
“It’s expensive to buy an extra helmet,” he said. “And some clients refuse to wear a helmet worn by many clients, because it’s not sanitary.”
The Interior Ministry reported that 1,830 people died in traffic accidents in the first nine months of 2015. In the same period last year, 1,734 people died.
However, the total number of accidents went down from 3,638 to 3,505. About 93 per cent of all accidents are caused by human factors like speeding, breaking the law and driving drunk.