Usually when we find ourselves nodding off, we grab a coffee or an energy drink to get an extra jittery boost. It never occurred to us to light our mouths on fire. But police in Sichuan had that exact idea, and are serving free chili peppers to drivers at highway service stations as a way to keep them alert on some of the world’s most dangerous stretches of road.
According to the Times UK:
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 chili initiative has apparently been pretty popular with the drivers. About three pounds of dried peppers were given out within the first nine days, and many of its intended recipients have reported an increase in alertness.
Besides spiciness, police are also looking towards helping long-distance drivers out with mentholated balms and quick roadside rest beds. While we applaud their creativity, we wonder if all of this wouldn’t be better fixed with employment conditions that don’t force people to overexert themselves constantly – including regulations that ensure drivers are allowed an allotted amount of time for rest.
Photo by kattebelletje