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On the highway, hot and wide awake

TRAFFIC police in southwestern China are now offering drivers raw peppers at highway service stations to prevent them falling asleep at the wheel, a local newspaper reported today.

Highway police in Chongqing Municipality started to offer the special treats last Monday as they feared drivers might become drowsier during spring, Chongqing Evening News reported.

The peppers are available at service stations along with herbal balms to help keep drivers refreshed, the report said.

The report said the chili treats have been popular among drivers who are mostly natives of China's Yunnan, Sichuan and Hunan provinces where chili is a local favorite.

Drivers are also being encouraged to take naps at the stations.

Police can force drivers to take a rest of more than 20 minutes if he or she has been at the wheel continuously for more than four hours, according to China's traffic laws.

China has topped the world for 10 years for the number of people killed in road accidents.

In 2007, about 89,000 people were killed in traffic accidents, nearly 105 times of that in 1951 when only 852 people were killed, according to a report by the Ministry of Public Security.

The number of automobiles in China has grown more than 20 times since 1985.


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