SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Traffic safety organisation Veilig Verkeer is starting a campaign on social media to raise awareness of the dangers of driving under the influence of laughing gas, broadcaster NOS reports.
Police research has shown that the drug has been involved in 960 road accidents so far this year compared to 60 in 2016. ‘It is incomprehensible that people, mainly youngsters, drive while under the influence of laughing gas.
They are taking their own lives and that of others into their hands,’ a Veilig Verkeer spokesperson told the broadcaster. A poll by drug monitoring organisation TeamAlert and NOS among 193 young adults who have driven having used the drug showed almost half thought nitrous oxide did not influence their ability to drive.
Police say the use of laughing gas while driving is a form of distraction and although it is not an enduring high people are for a short time under the influence. Apart from raising awareness Veilig Verkeer want a ban on the use of the canisters while driving.
Insurers, too, would welcome a ban. Users are already liable for damages, but a ban would put the blame unequivocally on the user, an insurance sector representative told NOS.
The health ministry said last year it wants to make it more difficult for teenagers to buy laughing gas following a report by addiction clinic Trimbos on the rising use of the drug by youngsters.
Research showed over 37% of Dutch party goers use laughing gas on a regular basis and that young adults are the most likely to do so. Although laughing gas is relatively safe it is not without dangers and its long-term effects on children has not been researched.
Alkmaar and Hoorn have already banned the use of laughing gas at events following a number of incidents in which youngsters were taken ill after taking the drug.
Dozens of little companies have sprung up in the Netherlands selling and delivering laughing gas to party goers since courts ruled the gas should not be treated as a medicinal drug.