Cambodia launches campaign against drunk driving

News release

WHO/Sao Sovanratnak
WHO Cambodia Representative Dr. Pieter JM Van Maaren handing over breath analyzer kits to HE Yun Chhunny, Deputy General Commissioner of the Cambodia National Police

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Cambodian National Road Safety Committee (NRSC), in collaboration with the Cambodian Ministry of Information, have launched a campaign to address drunk driving in the country.

"In Cambodia, road traffic injuries and deaths are a fast-growing public health problem," says Tram Iv Toek, Minister of Public Works and Transport and Chairman of the NRSC. "On average, five people are killed each day on the country’s roads.”

In 2011, road traffic crashes caused 16 654 casualties, including 1905 deaths, according to the Road Crash Victim Information System. The estimated economic loss was US$ 310 million.

The theme of the campaign is—“If You Drink, Do Not Drive” — as recommended by Prime Minister Hun Sen. The aim is to increase public awareness, especially among teenagers and young adults, of the negative consequences of the harmful use of alcohol, which is a major risk factor for road traffic injuries in Cambodia.

The campaign is part of the global Road Safety in 10 Countries (RS10) Project, which aims to reduce the high road traffic injury and fatality rate in Cambodia through training, raising awareness and implementing effective interventions through a multi-sectoral partnership.

Globally, nearly 1.3 million people die each year as a result of road traffic collisions, and as many as 50 million others are injured, with some suffering permanent disabilities, according to Dr Pieter JM Van Maaren, the WHO Representative in Cambodia.

More than 90% of road traffic deaths and injuries occur in low- and middle-income countries. In addition to the grief and suffering they cause, road traffic collisions result in enormous economic losses to victims, their families and nations as a whole.

In low- and middle-income countries, the economic cost of road traffic injuries is US$ 65 billion per year. Annually, millions of road crash victims stay weeks in the hospital, and many are unable to live, to work or to play as they used to.

Alcohol consumption is a major risk factor for road traffic crashes. In low-income countries, 33% to 69% of fatally injured drivers have excess alcohol in their blood.

In Cambodia, drunk driving is second only to speeding as a major risk factor for road crashes and casualties, factoring in 14% of road traffic fatalities, according to the Road Crash Victim Information System. Two out of three of these fatalities were drivers and riders 15 to 34 years old.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith says that drinking alcohol even in relatively small amounts increases the risk of being involved in a crash for drivers, riders and pedestrians. An intoxicated person can harm others, or put them at risk of traffic accidents or violent behaviour, or negatively affect co-workers, relatives, friends, neighbours or strangers.

To translate the Prime Minister’s recommendation into road safety action, the Ministry of Information has informed the media that all alcohol advertisements should contain the visual and audio warning: “If You Drink, Do Not Drive”. Furthermore, all advertisements that mislead the public by luring teenagers and young adults to consume alcohol through rewards are forbidden.

The RS10 Project is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies with technical support from WHO. The project began in 2010 with a focus on two risk factors that significantly contribute to traffic violations and crashes: drinking and driving, and helmetless motorcycle riders and passengers.

The project is coordinated by the NRSC in collaboration with relevant government institutions; international consortium partners, including WHO; the Global Road Safety Partnership; Johns Hopkins University in the United States of America; and other stakeholders.