New Year marks enforcement push for Cambodian helmet law

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AIP Foundation organised an event with police and government officials to mark the start of the enforcement push
AIP Foundation organised an event with police and government officials to mark the start of the enforcement push
English translation of Khmer posters and leaflets distributed by the ‘Head Safe. Helmet On.’ campaign to alert the public to the cost of fines under the new law
English translation of Khmer posters and leaflets distributed by the ‘Head Safe. Helmet On.’ campaign to alert the public to the cost of fines under the new law

A concerted enforcement effort to increase motorcycle helmet wearing in Cambodia has been launched, as a new traffic safety law came into force on 1st January 2016, supported by an AIP Foundation awareness campaign co-funded by USAID, the UPS Foundation and the FIA Foundation.

From January 1st, traffic police have begun to collect fines of 15,000 riels for each un-helmeted person on a motorcycle. This is the first time motorcycle passengers, in addition to drivers, are included in the law, and the level of fine for non-compliance has been increased five-fold, from 3,000 riels. Until this year police were powerless to prevent passengers – sometimes including entire families – riding unprotected on motorbikes.

The AIP Foundation is stepping up an awareness raising campaign which has been running since March 2015, alerting the public to the new rules. A public service announcement, broadcast on Cambodian television channels, shows ghosts who have been victims of road crash head injuries. These spirits halt a family during their journey to tell them that failing to wear a helmet while riding a motorbike threatens their lives.

The commercial is part of a campaign supporting the dissemination and implementation of the new Road Traffic Law. The campaign incorporates media, street, and community-based approaches to improve helmet safety in Cambodia, including warnings to the public of the increased level of fines and what that money could represent in food, fuel or phone costs. The campaign is part of AIP Foundation’s “Head Safe. Helmet On.” (HSHO) project, which is a two-year project, supported by donors including the United States Agency for International Development, Development Innovation Ventures (USAID-DIV), UPS Foundation, the FIA Foundation, and others, aimed to increase passenger helmet use in Cambodia.

HSHO project stakeholders gathered to inform the public about the upcoming passenger helmet law enforcement and to kick-off the second year of the behaviour change campaign. The event brought together approximately 300 attendees including representatives from AIP Foundation’s donors and sponsors, government ministries, the private sector, and the media. Relevant stakeholders, development partners, teachers, students, and parents were also involved in the event. Among the attendees were the H.E Lieutenant General Him Yan, Deputy Commissioner General of the National Police and Senior Representatives from the Secretariat of the National Road Safety Committee. At the event, AIP Foundation presented HSHO mid-term evaluation results and discussed upcoming HSHO activities.

Pagna Kim, AIP Foundation Cambodia Country Director said, “The second phase of the HSHO project will build on the first phase of the campaign. We are reinforcing our commitment to changing community behavior through our media and community-based campaigns.”

“Starting 1 January 2016, police will enforce the law using the new fine sub decree. For the enforcement of the passenger helmet law to be effective, people must be aware of the law. This project has helped to spread the message to the public and, in continuing the work through the next year, will hopefully lead to informed road users,” said H.E Major General Lay Bunthorn, High Representative of General Commissariat of the National Police. He added that, “Besides helmet wearing, necessary respect for the law – from driving responsibly within the speed limit, to not driving under the influence of alcohol – must be maintained by all road users whenever driving, in order to avoid fines and crashes.”

The mid-term survey results revealed that the television commercial during the first phase of the project reached 94% of Cambodia’s population and 88% of targeted communes remembered the campaign message. The results also indicated that respondents had an improved attitude toward helmet use. From August 2014 to August 2015, people surveyed who said they intend to wear helmets as passengers increased from 86% to 98% in target communes and from 90% to 96% in control communes. Through helmet observations, AIP Foundation found that the motorcycle passenger helmet rate increased from 9.9% to 14.2%, while the helmet use rate among child passengers increased from 6% to 17% from August 2014 to May 2015. AIP Foundation will continue to strengthen and sustain local capacity through working with commune-based road safety working groups so that they are able to address road safety issues, especially passenger helmet use.

“I am excited to see positive results after the first year of the HSHO project. Continuing and strengthening previous work to strive towards positive behaviour change will prevent road injury and save more lives,” said Mr. Chhoun Voun, Deputy Director General of Transport and Permanent Deputy Secretary General of the National Road Safety Committee.

In the next phase of the HSHO project, AIP Foundation plans to continue working with target schools through training teachers, students, and parents about the importance of passenger helmet use. To further support these efforts, 4,242 helmets will be delivered to all newly enrolled students in 18 target primary schools.