Crossing Cambodia

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Democracy and traffic

Today (14 December, 2006) from the Cambodian Daily a rather endearing story about an opposition party legislator / parliamentarian and the obvious way to treat a traffic victim. Obvious as there is the age old Cambodian traditional tendency to either blame the victim (and claim compensation) or to do a hit-and-run and pay for the funeral expenses (if public opinion sees this necessary). Another possibility is to a paper-scissors-rock game with one of the possibilities exchanged by a pistol or something more menacing. Hankies ready?
Lawmaker Apologizes for Hitting Man With His Car

By Saing Soenthrith

SRP lawmaker Cheam Channy has agreed to compensate a pedestrian after his car collided with the man in Phnom Penh on Tuesday evening, police and the lawmaker said Wednesday. Kun Sophal, 41, was crossing National Road 6 in Russei Keo districts Prek Leap commune at 7:30 pm when he was struck by a Toyota Camry driven by Cheam Channy, breaking at least one rib and leaving him unconscious, commune police chief Kong Saroeun said. He added that Cheam Channy stopped at the scene of the accident helped get Kun Sophal to Calmette Hospital and agreed to pay compensation. Cheam Channy said Wednesday that he was assuming responsibility for the accident, though Kun Sophal had stumbled into the path of his vehicle. "We are very sorry that the victim got heavily drunk and walked into our car," Cheam Channy said. "I am responsible for the accident. It was not politically motivated. I was returning from work in Kompong Cham province," he added.
Are there elections coming?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Vrom Vietnam

By just skimming some resources in Vietnam it is surprising what you could find. Here from Vietnam News:
Ha Noi strive to ensure improved traffic safety

Ha Noi meaning Vietnamese authorities. Striving to cope with increasing traffic and traffic associated problems, the local authorities in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city have drawn up long term plans to decrease the relative numbers of accidents and casualties. Partly this is ensured by road reconstruction, partly by education but there is also a prominent role for law enforcement.

The same article goes on to describe why accidents happen:

Lack of awareness and poor knowledge of traffic rules together with underdeveloped infrastructure, relaxed law enforcement and lack of public awareness campaigns were to blame for traffic accidents in Viet Nam.
The question is raised why such analysis does not take place in Cambodia? Surely speeding and drinking are not only to blame? Another interesting aspect is the drop in the number of reported traffic related deaths in HCM city. This seems to be a pattern as the same seems to be occurring in Phnom Penh. Here it surely not related to any obvious measure instigated. Crossing Cambodia's own theory is that as streets get clogged, speeds drop, which not necessarily means less accidents but rather that accidents are less dramatic. Witness Vientiane, Lao PDR where speeding and zipping around are pretty normal (still) but accidents result often in deaths.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Adopt a traffic policeman revisited

What happened just now? An official traffic police motorbike with two policemen halts on Norodom Avenue. One policeman jumps off and throws himself into the oncoming traffic. The third car is possibly the culprit (of what?) and is told to pull over. The Toyota Camry looks like it is pulling over but on the edge of the road, the driver continues. The motorcycle (minus 1 policeman) pursues and they argue while driving down the road, this made possible by the driver having the steering wheel on the wrong side. Within Crossing Cambodia's eyesight the car does not stop.

So what? In nearly every country in the world, when a driver is asked to pull over, he/she does so. Not in Cambodia. Having a nice uniform plus ditto motorcycle is not sufficient to enforce the law; too much of public / private life is regulated outside law. That much is obvious. But when will the realization start that even in such unimportant affairs such as driving down the road that rules are needed, need to be applied and need to be obeyed?

Stating Staistics

'Nearly 2,000 Traffic Casualties in October' captions an article in yesterday's (December 11, 2006) Cambodia Daily by daily reporter Liz Tomei. In a quest to fill the newspaper with local content, the Cambodia Daily seems intent on presenting monthly statistics on how the casualty list is doing and finding some new novel ideas to 'solve the problem'.

According to the Road Traffic Accident and Victim Information System (RTAVIS), 110 persons died, 506 were 'seriously' injured (what is serious? is this not subjective?) and 'nearly' 2,000 casualties were reported nationwide in October 2006. This represents an increase of 64% in deaths and 13.5% in total number of casualties over October 2005. However in Phnom Penh a drop was witnessed of 12 percent of road casualties (representing roughly 20-25% of the total number). This clearly puts a perspective on the presented statistics: October was a relatively 'normal' month calender wise with hardly any national holidays in which Phnom Penh appears to be deserted, everybody up-country), so such a drop could not be expected.

The October report goes on to state that the casualties were 'caused' by speeding drivers (41%) and 93% were caused by human error. Is it not so that the casualties are caused by accidents? That the factor 'speeding' is simply an aspect of the cause? How can 7% not be explained by human error?

Handicap International spokesperson also reveals that he believes the source of the statistics is broadening meaning automatically that an increase is to be expected. So was there an increase or not? The same spokesperson brings up the 10% financial aspect.In spite of what is customary in Cambodia, he proposes to use this amount of each investment made in the transport sector to install:
'safety features such as traffic signs, lane dividers and marked school zones'.
As Handicap International follow this blog avidly, they should be well aware of the senselessness of such measures: traffic signs are at best used as a pole for setting up a noodle shop, surely they are not there to be follow-up upon? Do we live in the same universe?

Finishing on a positive note the government stresses that the draft traffic law will be discussed this week nonetheless:
'After the law is approved, the first priority will be to educate the people ... The second priority will be to educate the traffic police',
Ung Chun Hour, deputy director general of transport at the Transport ministry is quoted.Well, since when did traffic police fail to meet the people criteria?

Even more positive Tin Prasoer, chief of the much criticized (= literal quote of the mentioned article, certainly not Crossing Cambodia's personal opinion, then again ...) municipal traffic police (did the Cambodia Daily run out of capital letters?) stressed that the drop in casualties in Phnom Penh (erm, ... he is not really reflecting on the statistics but perhaps on knowledge out on the street?) was directly due to the most recent order to install wing mirrors. Though compliance only toke place in December we might have to wait for the jury's verdict on that. He then dashingly dared to suggest:
'The next step is perhaps helmets'
Now what is the relevance between helmets and the number of casualties ?

p.s.: Crossing Cambodia must apologize that this article in the Cambodia Daily and this blog on the article failed to mention the two words in this context:
'law enforcement ....'

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Smuggling and traffic safety

Smuggling apparently takes place on a large scale. At least that's what this Cambodia Daily write up reports.

Eight hundred cars have been smuggled over the border at 2 border crossings with Thailand since March this year. The article does not mention how it has been determined that there were 800 vehicles smuggled, a wild guess / underestimation? Anyway, at current levels there are many vehicles with their steering wheels on the wrong side, a potential traffic hazard as the drivers have insufficient overview of the road situation. Has anyone driven in a car with the steering wheel on the wrong side?

Earlier this year as a measure to broaden the road tax base, all right handed steering vehicles were allowed to register and should be paying tax. Obviously this also assists the smuggle: if right hand steering would have been forbidden (due to safety concerns) then this smuggling would not have taken place.

So what that this has been discovered? A couple of fines here and there (as high as the profits of the corrupt custom officials?) and now try to find an alternative strategy for importing cars.


For the past 6 months Crossing Cambodia has been researching the link (if any) between how traffic is conducted and the nation / society of Cambodia. But today's (December 6, 2006) Cambodia Daily publishes a Letter to the Editor which could have been a copy of this site's various blogs. The letter:
Parents tend to to advise their children to drive slowly and carefully. This is not necessarily bad, but it will not guarantee road safety and solve congestion.
Shaving off Phnom Penh's sidewalks, widening the roads and installing concrete dividers are also not long-term solutions. Indisciplined driving and the lack of traffic regulations are causing congestion.
There are many red lights and people rarely stop for them. But traffic signs could ease congestion at most intersections.
There are many issues that could ensure traffic safety. These include helmets, seat belts, protective seats for children and rear view mirrors. Lane dividers should be made of plastic and filled with water. Reflective devices should be used to mark out lanes, so they can be distinguished at night.
Extensive use of cell phones, watching karaoke videos on in-car television screens, and drivers failing to indicate when they are turning are all problems. So are people driving the wrong way down one-way streets.
There are also very few signs in Phnom Penh indicating speed limits. Undisciplined driving is a reflection of the country as a whole and we all have contributed to it. If one obeys the traffic law, traffic will flow smoothly. Disciplined driving can paint a good picture of a society we all live in. Vorak Ny, Phnom Penh.
A misconception: traffic signs are being ignored so they can hardly be a solution to congestion problems.
The writer in general understands the problems, but fails to come with good solutions. Law enforcement seems to be the most logical solution. If even red lights are being ignored how can more traffic signs and voluntary calls for disciplined driving help?

Can disciplined driving paint a good picture of society? Yes, but maybe society reflects itself on traffic habits, so if society as a whole does not become more disciplined, traffic is doomed to remain chaotic. Or not?

Enforcement in progress

This morning on Monivong. An even day so no parking on the west side. This driver was luckily on time, otherwise his car would have been impounded. Got off, backed up and parked around the corner.

From the press: Mirror Mania Mayhem

Mirror mania has caught up with the Cambodia Daily. Yesterday's (5 December 2006) issue has an article (with assistance from the KI site) with the following curious caption:
Police to fine Motorbike Drivers Without Mirrors
The curious does not refer to the difficulting in understanding the lead (do moto drivers need mirrors or do their moto's need mirrors?), but Crossing Cambodia seem to have problems with a logical sequence of events: government announces measure, government announces date (december) in which to comply and on said date starts to enforce the announced measure. Seems logical, but this is not the case, apparently, as traffic police are already doling out fines and non-police officials are still having their doubts:
But Deputy Municipal Governor Pa Socheatvong said police should only start to warn drivers without mirrors today, and that it is still too early to start fining them.

"We need to give more time for residents to install the mirrors," he said. "We also strongly ask vendors not to sell the mirrors at a much greater price."
Probably he wants to uphold the age-old Cambodian tradition of legislating and non-enforcement.

What's more surprising is that it seems very serious ( see other blogs), moto's are being fitted with mirrors! There is also some concern with corruption:
"Anyone who is fined will be given an invoice to make sure that they will not be fined several times in one day," Touch Naruth (chief of municipal police) said by telephone.
He adds:
"We strongly believe that the order to install mirrors on both sides of motorbikes will reduce accidents."
Well, that remains to be seen. Crossing Cambodia believes that if something changes it would mean more accidents: more chances to catch the mirrors on something / someone.

The main problem is that the measure, when introduced, was meant to increase the use of mirrors, but not necessarily for combing ones' hair. How this will be enforced has apparently not be researched. But it is the thought that counts.

Then finally there has been some leeway for police and public to barter the height of fines. Apparently: there is also a 1000 riel discount
'if their mirrors are deemed too small or improperly positioned'.
Now what are the official requirements for size and position?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Monday, December 04, 2006

Central chaos

From the Cockroach Corner of the December 2006 issue of Bayon Pearnik:
Central Chaos
'Yes the consultants are at it again. The south west of Central Market around the bus station is being cut off from the rest of the market to aid traffic flow.
Once the cops have got bored with enforcing the new rules (one week) it will be interesting to see how multi-dimensional the flow gets.
These ideas work in the west but the consultants always forget the ingenuity of local motos in finding ways round rules'.
See also this posting:
Curious I
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