More on the chllis to keep Chinese drivers awake

Trip Start Jan 30, 2007
Trip End Dec 31, 2011

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Flag of China  , Chongqing,
Friday, March 13, 2009

As well as the rather alarming stats about China having the worst accident rate in the world - here's more about the local initiative to keep drivers wide awake when making those 12+ hour journeys . . .

From the Times

Chinese police have come up with a novel idea to keep drivers awake on the deadliest roads in the world - supply them with free chilli peppers to prevent them falling asleep at the wheel.

In the southwestern Chongqing region, home to one of the most spicy diets in the world, police have begun serving drivers dried chilli peppers at highway service stations because they are worried that driving in the Spring will mean drivers are even more sleepy than usual.

Drivers have already stopped and helped themselves to 1.5kg (3lb) of featherlight dried peppers since the service began nine days ago, local newspapers reported. "It's an unbelievable quantity," a police officer said.

And that assessment comes in the Sichuan provincial region of China where the chilli pepper is effectively a compulsory ingredient of any dish that wants to be regarded as a serious contender for a place in the demanding hierarchy of Chinese cuisine.

Most of the drivers passing through this area are from Sichuan, Yunnan and Hunan provinces where chilli peppers have come to be regarded as a prerequisite for any dish. Drivers just dig their hand into a bag of dried chilli peppers available at the side of the road and munch down on the ultra-spicy deep red peppers. Driver Chen Jun said: "It's really good to have some hot peppers when you are tired from driving. They make you alert."

That vote of confidence should encourage the police, who face a crisis trying to curb the death toll on the most dangerous roads in the world. China reported 5.1 road accident deaths for every 10,000 motor vehicles in 2007, the highest in the world. The world average was two deaths per 10,000 vehicles.

The Ministry of Public Security has said that since 1996 China has ranked first in the world in terms of traffic deaths. About 73,500 people lost their lives in road accidents in China in 2008, a fall of 10 per cent from the previous year but not enough of a decline to remove the country from first place. The World Health Organisation has estimated that the number of road traffic deaths each year in China could be as many as 250,000, making it the leading cause of death among people aged between 15 and 44.

The lion's share of the fatalities are pedestrians, followed by bicyclist and motorcyclists. Mortality rates for men are estimated to be more than twice as high for men as for women.

Road deaths have almost doubled as car ownership in the world's most populous nation has rocketed from 1985 to 2005. The death rate increased by 95 per cent and one reported that the fatality rate would only rise as increasingly affluent Chinese indulged their craving for a car.

Official statistics show tha China has 3 per cent of the world's cars while accounting for 16 per cent of all traffic deaths each year.

Driving in China is like a game of chicken, with oncoming vehicles - particularly heavily loaded, lumbering and ancient lorries -refusing to give way to smaller vehicles. Lorries switching lanes without signalling, driving down the middle of the road at night and frequently ignoring traffic lights are a leading cause of death. Traffic police statistics show that some 39 per cent of fatalities involve passenger vehicles, meaning that commercial vehicles must account for the majority of deaths.

Perhaps the chilli peppers, along with supplies of mentholated balm and beds for a quick roadside rest in Chongqing could help to reduce the mortality rate.
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