More and more young drivers ‘high’ behind the wheel

Nearly a fifth of drivers in the 18 to 34 age category acknowledge driving under the influence of drugs or laughing gas at least once a month.  The figure from traffic institute Vias has nearly doubled – up from 11% only two years ago.

In many cases the drug is combined with alcohol exponentially increasing the risk of an accident says Vias. 6,000 people were quizzed.  8% acknowledged driving under the influence of drugs at least once a month.  Among younger drivers the figure is much higher. 

Vias sees the pandemic as the engine behind the recent rise: night life has been restricted.  People look for kicks in recreational drugs, especially cannabis.  “It remains in the body for a while and can impact on driving skills” explains Vias’s Stef Willems.

21% of young male drivers are doing drugs behind the wheel at least once a month.  For women the figure is 7%.  In Brussels and Wallonia, the figure for young male drivers is now 30%.

More drivers are also combining drugs with alcohol: 35% now compared to 25% last year.

Laughing gas is becoming increasingly popular too among the young. The gas creates a short rush and also impacts on driving skills.  Possession of laughing gas is perfectly legal but driving under influence is not.
In Flanders one if five young drivers are behind the wheel at least once a month under the influence of laughing gas.  In Brussels the figure is one in three.

The police can’t detect laughing gas use with a regular drugs test.  The dangers are clear: “After inhalation a euphoric rush may be accompanied by giddiness, loss of balance and troubled vision” says Sarah Wille of the National Crime and Criminology Institute.

Vias is now calling for rules on laughing gas to be tightened up.  The organisation is seeking a uniform ban on possession and use.  
Because of difficulty in detection there are no clear figures on the number of accidents in which laughing gas plays a role.  But canisters have been recovered from several cars involved in RTAs.

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