Use of laughing gas growing significantly
The Dutch mobility organization VVN (Veilig Verkeer Nederland) asks more attention for the use of laughing gas in traffic. According to new figures from the police, the number of incidents due to laughing gas is steadily increasing. Until July 2019, already 960 cases were registered, at least four a day, or even more. That’s why the coming weeks the VVN is going to pay extra attention to youngsters. And the easiest way to reach this target group is to use social media, like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
In 2016, there were only some tens of incidents, in 2018 ‘hardly’ 380, but this year there are already 960. So, the number is growing explosively. The problem is not limited to the Netherlands either. Also in Belgium, laughing gas is becoming a dangerous hype.
The Dutch Foundation for Scientific Research about Traffic Safety (Stichting Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Verkeersveiligheid) is worried as well. “The fact that evermore laughing gas is used is not a positive evolution,” a spokesperson says. “We haven’t done any investigation yet, but we’re following the phenomenon attentively.”
Glow of pleasance
VVN is also planning a campaign to warn people about the risk of laughing gas.
According to the police, laughing gas is mainly used in larger cities. The product often is inhaled through a balloon. It gives a slight glow of pleasance, muscles relax, and the perception of noise and vision changes, which can be dangerous in traffic. Finally, it can lead to a deficiency of oxygen and unconsciousness. The problem is still small, though, compared to other nuisances in traffic, like alcohol, the use of the smartphone, and speeding.
People who get caught will be fined or can lose their driver’s license. Laughing gas or nitrous oxide in itself is not forbidden, but driving under the influence is. Catching someone red-handed, however, is not so easy. A saliva test can detect alcohol, but laughing gas almost immediately evaporates. Still, it can influence someone’s driving abilities for hours.
There are hardly any studies about the use of laughing gas, but there has been a test with a driving simulator in 1979. The test was intended to analyze the effect of laughing gas as an anesthetic. In 2004, another study was executed to explain the differences in driving abilities of sober people and those who had used the gas. The first hour, nothing happened, but those who had used the gas got drowsy after a while, while those who were sober still were wide awake.