Crossing Cambodia

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Cambodia Weekly

A new-ish publication in Cambodia is the Cambodia Weekly, which is no relative of the Cambodia Daily. In it's already 12th issue, it delves up quite a few stories on transport in Cambodia. Unfortunately their web-site is under construction which means that Crossing Cambodia has to blatantly copy the articles.

Let's look at the editorial. Someone by the name of Hang 'Sunny' Sunleng writes a 'personal dispatch':

'The rules of the road have changed, let's follow them

I have three rules of driving in Cambodia. The first is compromise. I let people overtaking me in speeding land cruisers or dangerously weaving through the traffic on their motorbikes endangering their lives and others pass me by. The second is to be aggressive. When intersections are clogged with motobikes and big trucks [in general there are no big trucks in Phnom Penh], I have to be aggresssive, otherwise I will never cross. The third is it's anarchy. I figure if I can't beat them, I'll have to join the anarchistic game that passes for driving here'.
So his ingredients: as a traffic participant be a compromising aggressive anarchist!
'This year I celebrate my 10th year of driving in Cambodia.

After traveling on the treacherous roads during Khmer New Year I am still appalled and shocked by the amount of irresponsible drivers.

There were 270 accidents during Khmer New Year - slightly more than last year- 54 people died and another 259 were severely injured, according to the Ministry of Interior figures.

The main cause of these accidents was human error including illegal speeding [is there no legal speeding? CC], drunk driving and dangerous passing, according to Meas Chandy, road safety project officer of the Road Traffic and Victim Information System.

Until last year, no license was even required to drive a motorbike.

On Dec. 20 [2006] the president of the National Assembly H.E. Heng Samrin signed the new traffic law, which contains 12 chapters and 95 articles. Now according to the law, the minimum age to drive a motorbike is 16 years.

While this new traffic law is an important step forward, there is a long way to go to put it into practice.

For instance, article 43 of the Traffic Law determines that a driver loses his licence after receiving 12 demerit points. One point is deducted for a light infraction and eight points for more severe infractions. It sounds great, but like any other law, without strict implementation and enforcement, it is rendered ineffective'.
This surely can not be true. If anything non-bookkeeping and / or book cooking are national past-times. Everyone in the position will ( or already does) rewrite his or her history. And when you lose your license you just buy a new one!
'Every day I hear the radio and newspaper [read the newspaper?] reports on traffic accidents that result in casualties and property damage. Clearly, these high tolls remain unchanged.

But what is most unfortunate is that the majority of casualties are farmers, students and workers [that covers most of Cambodia's citizens, the only exceptions are politicians and business persons] and that the major causes of these accidents are speeding and alcohol, both of which are preventable'.
He then goes on about the difficulties he had in obtaining a driving licence in Canada where he has apparently lived for twenty years, despite already possessing a Cambodian license when entering Canada.
'I think if we followed some basic principles of traffic safety like following the speed limit, not driving under the influence, using turn signals, wearing helmets on motobikes, crossing the street in the crosswalk and limiting the number of passengers in vans, it would be a huge step forward toward safer roadways for everyone'.
Could it really be this simple? Speed limits are non-existent. Driving under the influence: no breath analysis testers. Using turn signals: lights often not work and if they do, this is certainly the last thing a Cambodian Driver would use. Wearing helmets: yeah; simple to control, a large contribution to ensuring safety during accidents. Crosswalks: as mentioned previously in this blog it is perceived by Cambodians a crazy thing to do, walk that is; no need for cross walks, just places for (legal) u-turns. Vans overloaded? What about taxi's? Moto's? Remorques? Tuk=tuks?
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