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Cablegate: Cambodian Response to Distracted Driving Demarche

VZCZCXYZ0006
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHPF #0082 0350925
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 040925Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1641
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS PHNOM PENH 000082

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, OES/S/NCARTER-FOSTER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON SOCI UNDP UNGA CB
SUBJECT: CAMBODIAN RESPONSE TO DISTRACTED DRIVING DEMARCHE

REF: STATE 6703

1. SUMMARY. ESTHOff delivered Reftel demarche to the
directors of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport's
(MPWT) Department of Transport and the Ministry of Interior's
(MOI) Public Order Department. Text messaging and cell phone
use while driving are common in Cambodia but are not viewed
by the government as high-priority road safety concerns when
compared to other frequent unsafe practices such as vehicle
overloading or the failure to use helmets on motorcycles or
seatbelts in cars. Cambodia's 2007 Land Traffic Law
officially bans use of telephones while driving unless they
are part of the vehicle's communications equipment, but
traffic police rarely enforce this rule. END SUMMARY.

2. DATA ON FATALITIES, INJURIES, OR CRASHES: The government
is still compiling final statistics for 2009, but a 2008
report by the MPWT, MOI, and Ministry of Health (MOH) stated
that Cambodia has the highest fatality rate per 10,000
registered vehicles among the ten ASEAN member countries. In
that year, there were 25,796 road traffic casualties and
1,638 fatalities, resulting from 10,015 crashes. The number
of road traffic fatalities has almost doubled over the last
five years. Motorcycle users accounted for the vast majority
of casualties and fatalities (77% and 68%, respectively).

3. There is little available data on the number of crashes
specifically due to text messaging or cell phone use.
According to the MPWT, in 2008 there were 53 accidents caused
specifically by cell phone use. However, road safety studies
say that 98% of crashes were due to human error, and given
the prevalence of cell phone use while driving, it is likely
that more accidents could be linked to phone use. The top
three causes for traffic fatalities were speeding, alcohol
abuse, and failure to wear helmets, followed by vehicle
overloading, failure to respect right of way and dangerous
overtaking. (NOTE: Most Cambodian roads, including national
highways, are only two lanes and are traveled by all manner
of vehicles, pedestrians, and in rural areas by animals. END
NOTE.) Preliminary statistics for 2009 show the same trends.

3. AWARENESS OR EDUCATION CAMPAIGNS: There is no awareness
campaign focused on text messaging or cell phone use, as the
priority areas are helmet use, drunk driving, and speeding,
although a leaflet produced by Handicap International
Belgium, which works with the MPWT and MOI on road safety
issues, includes notes on mobile phone use while driving. In
2009 the MOI launched a nationwide campaign requiring
motorcyclists to wear helmets and use rearview mirrors, and
for car passengers to use seatbelts. The MOI reported that
in January 2010 alone, traffic police fined 14,269 motorbike
drivers for not wearing helmets. MPWT officials claim a
70-80% compliance during the daytime with helmet laws since
the awareness campaigns went into effect, a marked
improvement from only one year ago.

4. EFFECTIVENESS OF LAWS, LAW ENFORCEMENT: Traffic police
rarely enforce rules on cell phone use while driving, and
while enforcement of helmet and seatbelt rules is improving,
police are only posted during daytime hours, so nighttime
accident and fatality rates have remained high. The public
also widely considers traffic police to be corrupt; when
stopped, offenders can typically bribe their way out of a
ticket.

5. PREVALENCE OF TEXT MESSAGING/CELL USE: According to the
Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and the 2008 census,
Cambodia has 5.5 million cell phone subscribers, or one phone
for every three Cambodians. There are nine cell phone
service providers, only four of which operate nationwide.
Text messaging, or Short Messaging Service (SMS), is popular
among cell phone users in Cambodia due to their relatively
low cost compared to making phone calls, even though most
cell phones do not have a Khmer-script keypad.

RODLEY

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