This week the Khmer Times Newspaper reported that traffic accident casualties in Cambodia in the first nine months of the year have increased by more than double when compared to the same period last year.
According to the Cambodia Interior Ministry’s Department of Traffic Police and Public Order, from January 2018 until the end of September 2018, 1,313 people have died, while 3,427 were injured in traffic collisions. During the same period in 2017, 426 people died and 1,216 were injured.
In November 2015 I wrote 2 articles titled; My 8 Point Strategy For Improving Cambodia’s Road Safety and My Radical Plan To Improve Cambodia’s Road Safety. The common theme in both these articles was that traffic accidents were occurring at high levels because the majority of people just didn’t know how to ride a motorbike or drive a vehicle correctly and in a safe manner.
The recent report by the Cambodia Government is of no surprise to me. Every day whilst on the roads in Cambodia I see countless incidents of people riding motorbikes and driving vehicles, with a clear non-understanding of how to drive correctly. Road Laws, Police Enforcement, Marketing Campaigns and other programs designed to reduce traffic collisions are all extremely important, however, if people who are riding motorbikes or driving vehicles, don’t know how to drive the vehicle correctly, then collisions will continue to occur, and death & serious injury will continue to increase as we have seen this year.
I have not only been driving a vehicle for 30 years but I was also trained by Victoria Police in advanced driving when I joined the police force. I learnt how to drive a vehicle aggressively, whilst understanding all of the complexities of road safety that ensured I drove the vehicle safely; not only safely to protect me, but safely to protect all other road users.
Motorbikes, cars, buses and trucks can be very dangerous pieces of equipment if they are operated by people who are not trained and who don’t understand the concepts of road safety. In Cambodia, we see this every day. Here are some common issues that are causing people to have vehicle collisions.
Speed – its easy to ride a motorbike or drive a car fast. But understanding what speed does to your ability to handle your motorbike or vehicle correctly, understanding how speed affects the performance of the motorbike or vehicle, understanding how speed affects breaking capacity and understanding how speed affects your decision making & reaction times, is crucial if you want to ride a motorbike or drive a vehicle safely.
Overtaking & Road Cambers – without doubt, one of the biggest causes of collisions in Cambodia resulting in death and serious injury is due to the motorbike or vehicle overtaking when it is unsafe to do so, overtaking when the rider or driver does not have clear visibility of the road or traffic ahead, or overtaking or approaching a bending road and either travelling too fast for the motorbike or vehicle to safely handle the bend and/or travelling too fast and the camber of the road has caused the motorbike or vehicle to swerve off the road. (The image shown here is of a terrible accident in June this year where a mini bus carrying charity workers in Cambodia, was travelling too fast, resulting in the driver not being able to handle the bus as he tried to turn on a sweeping left bend that had a kerb leaning camber).
Incorrect Turning & Merging – we all see this every day on Cambodia’s roads. Motorbikes or vehicles turning right from the left hand lane, cutting in front of traffic whilst trying to merge without giving way to other traffic, driving the wrong way and head-on into oncoming traffic, and driving on the opposite side of the road.
Failing To Obey Traffic Signals – its debatable as to whether motorbike riders or vehicle drivers who don’t stop at red traffic lights, who don’t stop at stop signs, who don’t give way when turning into oncoming traffic and who disobey traffic signals, are either deliberately breaking the law or they just don’t know the law. Regardless of this, failing to obey traffic signals not only increases the chance of the motorbike riders or vehicle drivers having a collision but it greatly increases the risk of other road users being injured or killed.
Impairment & Driver Distractions – unfortunately Cambodia is not alone when its comes to road users being impaired by drugs & alcohol. There is a reason why many countries enforce strict laws with regards to drug & alcohol use for road users. It is scientifically and practically proven that drugs & alcohol affect your judgement, concentration, comprehension, coordination, vision and reaction time. Riding a motorbike or driving a car whilst affected by drugs or alcohol is not a matter of IF, but WHEN will you have a collision. You may be lucky and only damage your motorbike or vehicle, but can you live with killing a person because you were drug or alcohol affected? Talking on a phone or texting while driving is very common and you don’t have to look too far on Cambodia’s roads to see this occurring. Its not rocket science – if you are looking at your phone then you are not looking at whats ahead of you on the road.
These are just some of the common issues I see occurring on Cambodia’s roads every day. And whilst there are so many more causes of collisions in Cambodia, what is important to note is that you alone are responsible for yourself and other road users every time you ride a motorbike or drive a vehicle. You alone are responsible for the safety of yourself, your passengers and road users every time you take control of a motorbike or vehicle and you alone will be held responsible if you have a collision that results in serious injury or death to you, your passengers or other road users, if it is proven that you rode your motorbike or drove your vehicle too fast, overtook other road users when it was unsafe to do so, turned or merged into traffic incorrectly, failed to obey traffic signals or rode your motorbike or drove your vehicle whilst affected by drugs or alcohol.
Its up to you!