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8631695570_e9b908926a_bWith crowded streets and poor enforcement of regulations, road safety is a critical concern in Cambodia. Every year, more than 2,000 people die and over 15,000 are injured on the country’s roads. A coalition of road safety advocates recently called on the Government to pass mandatory comprehensive helmet laws.

Kim Pagna, Country Director of Asia Injury Prevention Foundation Country Director says:

“Motorcycle helmets are proven to reduce the risk of serious injury by 69 percent and of death by 42 percent in a crash, but while motorcycle driver helmet wearing rates are more than 60 percent, fewer than 10 percent passengers wear helmets.”

Economic development means more vehicles on the roads, which means more accidents. Part of the solution is legislative, as the advocates are urging. Unless serious measures are taken to improve the physical infrastructure as well as driving habits, this problem is only going to get worse.

Today’s Cambodia Daily (print only) reports that beginning May 1, car and truck drivers will no longer be fined on the spot, instead the officer will issue a ticket, to be paid later (see “On-The-Spot Fines for Car, Truck Drivers to End”, April 26 2012). As it is now, drivers who are stopped for traffic violations are issued a ticket and pay the fine at the side of the road. From next week on, you’ll have to go to the local public order police department or traffic office. It’s unclear whether the policy will eventually apply to motorbikes.

In principal, this new rule should reduce the potential for abuse, as drivers should not have to take their wallets out on the side of the road. If the procedures for paying at the police or traffic offices are well established and the lines aren’t too long, this should be a change for the better. If, however, it’s a real hassle to settle the fine properly, then there’s more incentive for abuse.

We’ve blogged before on the best way to handle a traffic accident – basically make sure you have insurance, and call your insurer to negotiate on your behalf.

According to a Post article yesterday, car insurance might soon become mandatory:

Vehicle insurance could become compulsory under amendments to the Land Traffic Law currently under consideration by an inter-ministerial working group, officials said.

Preap Chanvibol, director of the land transport department at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said in June that his working group had finalised the amendments to the law, and was planning to send them to the Minister of Public Works later in the month.

Though I haven’t seen the draft proposal, in principle mandatory insurance would be a very good development, continuing the Cambodian Government’s recent efforts with regard to road safety.

As it is now, most accidents are settled on the side of the road, too often with little consideration to the law itself. If all drivers were insured, the insurance companies would presumably negotiate amongst each other to settle claims, and bring suit to court when they can’t reach an agreement.

Hopefully claims would eventually be decided with reference to the traffic law.

Even to the experienced, driving in Cambodia can be a harrowing ordeal. Crazy teenagers on motos, horsecarts blocking the road, wandering cows, and bullying Lexus drivers… Drive here long enough, and sooner or later you’re going to have an accident.

Imagine it’s nighttime on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. You negligently clipped a moto-driver, though he was driving like a maniac and probably drunk. He fell and has minor injuries, but the bike is ruined. A crowd has gathered, there’s shouting, everyone’s blaming you. The cops arrive and decide you’re at fault, demanding an exorbitant sum, and won’t let you go. You’re carrying a few bucks, there’s no bank anywhere, and the cop took your keys anyway.

What to do?

To a foreigner used to insurance companies, courtrooms, and due-process, this can seem a bit shocking. Don’t freak out. From a legal perspective, while it may be possible to bring a traffic-accident suit to court, the Traffic Law specifically empowers the police to settle the dispute, on the scene. What’s more, they can legally prevent you from leaving without settling. Don’t think you can just tell them to call your lawyer and drive off. Bad move.

Unless you’re drinking buddies with the chief of police, the best practical advice is to carry liability insurance. Call your insurer’s 24-hour number, hand the phone to the cop (or better yet, dial it on his phone), and they’ll negotiate it all for you. The insurer will reach an agreement, pay the bill, and you can be on your way.

And best of all, you don’t have to talk to a lawyer.

The Cambodia Daily (print only) reports that a law on water traffic has been drafted and is circulating within the government for discussion. The law would require boats to display registration plates, which is currently optional. The article quotes a government official as saying they intend to present it to the Council of Ministers by the end of the year.

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The work of a handful of attorneys at BNG Legal, this blog's mission is to keep the world up-to-date on legal issues in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

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