Crossing Cambodia

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Chasing Cars, the wet edition

Some torrential down pours this week. This lead to a first feature:
  • Vuthasurf describes what happens when the heavens open themselves. The consequences are
      a. everybody waits til the rain is over.
      b. the streets flood
      c. once drier everybody simultaneously decides to hit the flooded streets.

    And then?
    'During the rain, the drivers of cars and motorbikes rarely respect the traffic light.... While I reached the traffic light, the large number of motorbikes, cars, and trucks close together and unable to move or moving very slowly in the middle of street'.
    And the traffic police:
    'While during the chaos in the street, I did not see the traffic police officers at the sense in order to help ease the trouble of the traffic'.
    That about sums up this week. Rain, traffic jams and incompetence. Incompetence? Surely not!

    Just yesterday on a stretch of Sihanouk Boulevard two squads of 8 police men each trying to apprehend everything evil passing, which seems to be everything with a motor and on two wheels. They were positioned on 2 busy intersections. Due to some poor macro-economic planning from Cambodia's chief of staff my journey coincided with a power cut rendering the brand new set of traffic lights useless. So traffic snarls up. And what do the police do? Nada! Not their problem.
  • The blame game continues, now (IRIN reports) the traffic deaths are due to 'rapid urbanization', as if safety issues are non-achievable. If this were the case then the most urban of countries would have the highest number of deaths, but that's not the case.
    'But even better roads create other problems, Duly [road safety adviser for Handicap International Belgium]contends.
    “Now people have wider, paved roads right outside the city, and they go even faster,” he told IRIN. “Speeding accounts for half of all fatalities.” Alleviating the number of fatalities, said Duly, means educating the population about road safety and encouraging police to enforce traffic laws.

    Another priority is making sure the Ministry of Public Works and Transport has the capacity to gather and analyse traffic data. Handicap International gave more than 100 GPS detectors and data-gathering tools to the police to improve the mapping of accident trends.

    “It's very important they have these tools to look at accidents,” said Sem Panhavuth, who manages road safety data for Handicap International. “So far they haven't been able to analyse much where accidents are happening or where they might occur.”'
    So clearly HIB doubt whether the traffic police can add up. Instead they even need GPS to note the places where accidents happens. What happened to old-fashion methods of reporting where the accident took place and putting pins on a map. You could even digitize the reports, but all can be done without GPS. Wasting money?
    Then the reality:
    'Cambodian police officers regularly abuse traffic laws in favour of government and business elites, drivers claim.

    “Any time there's a motorbike or car accident, the more powerful person gets his way,” said Sok Chesda, a motorbike taxi driver in Phnom Penh. “Usually we don't even call the police, but just leave the scene if a rich person hits us, even if they are at fault.”

    When a traffic accident means injury or damage to a vehicle, the two sides negotiate a price and settle on who should pay — usually the party with fewer government connections, a group of taxi drivers said.

    Police in Phnom Penh are, nonetheless, minimally involved in traffic enforcement. Instead of enforcing crucial laws against speeding, drunk driving, or wearing helmets, they focus on “easier” regulations like rear-view mirrors and licence plates, Duly said.

    “It's good they're enforcing those types of laws too, but we're really urging them to recognise the importance of stopping speeders and drunk drivers.”

    However, according to Sok: “If the police stop me for speeding or anything, I'll just give them 2,000 riels [US$0.50] and continue driving,” he said.'
    Just yesterday a person Crossing Cambodia knows was asked to pay 50$ for no apparent infringement!
  • Then again it's not always clear how traffic safety issues work. From the NZ Herald no less, an image of Thailand:

  • A couple of weeks ago, a mention of a Phnom Penh cyclists club, this time a Vespa scooter club. Sopach adds an up date. The objective: '
    'To travel countryside and to make friends'.
    Accompanied by Vespa mechanic!
  • And what's the reality out of PP? Kampuchea Crossings (like the name) highlight the lack of development in Kampot province.
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