Few Arrests Under New Traffic Law

source: khmer time

A driver is tested for the amount of alcohol in his system. Supplied

A driver is tested for the amount of alcohol in his system. Supplied

Only 600 drivers have been sent to court since the new Traffic Law technically took effect in January and legally in March.
According to a National Road Safety Committee report released yesterday, out of almost 10 million vehicles that were checked, 1.5 million were found to have broken the law.
The report said 813,381 drivers, 68 percent of whom  were on motorbikes, were fined and the government made about $5 million from the fines.
Throughout the year, 14,809 drunk drivers were caught, with only 553 being sent to court.
Of the 553, a total of 434 were found to be drunk while driving motorbikes.
Lieutenant-General Run Rathveasna, director of the Interior Ministry’s of public order department, disputed the figure, telling Khmer Times that 598 drunk drivers had been caught, all of them in Phnom Penh.
The lack of arrests and court cases in comparison with the high number of road crimes have bolstered claims from the law’s critics, who say it is not tough enough to make societal changes and was not explained well enough to the country’s populace.
A study released last month found that more than 60 percent of citizens had little to no understanding of the new traffic law or which rules would change.
One criticism of the law was its relatively weak penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The law says any driver found with an alcohol level of more than 0.4 will be given up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Yet as the numbers show, the majority of police stops for drunk driving do not end in arrests and few law breakers see the inside of a courtroom.
Most of the drivers who caught were sentenced to imprisonment and a fine, Lt. Gen. Rathveasna said, but the court usually suspends their sentence. Many drivers are only fined, he added.
“But even though the drunk drivers are not in jail, their sentence will be recorded on their criminal record if the court finds them guilty,” he told Khmer Times.
On Monday, the National Assembly changed the drunk driving section of the law while making amendments to nine articles.
The new amendment reduces the penalty for drunk driving, with violators only getting a warning on their first arrest.
They would be given a six-month probationary period during which they would be fined if they were caught driving under the influence again.
Only after breaking the law a third time would a drunk driver face a tougher sentence.
The amendments passed with 93 percent of the vote.
Lt. Gen. Rathveasna said the amendment did not say how much the fine should be so it will be up to the police officer’s discretion.
He said the government would adopt a sub-decree detailing the level of the fine. But he praised the laws and amendments, saying they contributed to the lower number of road accidents and deaths this year.
Ear Chariya, the director of the Institute for Road Safety, told Khmer Times that despite the low level of enforcement and lax penalties, the law was good for the kingdom in the long term.
“It is historical for Cambodia because we have never had strict enforcement like this before,” he said, before criticizing the amendments added this week.
Severe punishments, he said, would scare people into compliance and the weaker penalties will cause a rise in the number of drunk drivers. He called on the government to increase the punishment for driving under the influence and urged them to finish a law on the control of alcohol as soon as possible.
Government officials and traffic police have defended the law and point to the 12 percent decrease in traffic accidents and 14 percent decrease in road deaths this year as evidence it is having an effect.
But the yearly data on traffic accidents showed that most accidents occurred due to a driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

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