Crews from West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) will be at Centenary Square in Bradford on March 19, when they will have a mock road traffic accident showing what can happen while taking nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas.
The gas is becoming increasingly popular among young people, with many not realising that this seemingly innocent drug can have grave consequences. Nitrous oxide has been linked to life-threatening health complications, and it can also impair someone's ability to drive safely.
"Nitrous oxide affects people physically and mentally," says Craig Kettlewell, Bradford District Watch Manager for WYFRS. "It can cause severe nausea, dizziness and light-headedness which can make driving hazardous.
“This is a really big problem for us in Bradford and we have cut people out of cars where nitrous oxide has been present. A couple of articles in the press have highlighted that fatal accidents have taken place with nitrous oxide canisters in the car.
“It is a party drug that people are using in bars and clubs, and we must regularly educate people on the dangers of it. It is easy to buy and is now sold in bigger canisters – often young people film themselves taking it and do not understand the harm it can cause.
“The gas restricts the brain of oxygen, gives them a small high and so becomes addictive. They take it by filling up a balloon with the gas and inhaling it - we have spoken to some young people that are inhaling 30 balloons a day. The problem is there is no roadside test, and it leaves someone system very quickly.”
For the event on March 19t, WYFRS has teamed up with police, ambulance and an organisation called Bradford New Direction, Change Grow Live, that is keen to raise awareness of the dangers of nitrous oxide.
"Using nitrous oxide while driving puts yourself and others in danger," says WM Kettlewell. "The effects of the drug can affect your coordination and reaction time behind the wheel.
“It is important to remember that while laughing gas may seem like a harmless recreational activity, it carries major risks. We would advise anyone not to take nitrous oxide, but if they do then stay away from vehicles and other risky situations such as open water. Never get behind the wheel after using nitrous oxide – it is simply not worth it!”
Bradford District Commander Chris Kovacs said: “As Bradford District Commander I am concerned regarding the growing trend around the recreational use of nitrous oxide.
“Its use can result in a lack of coordination, slowed reflexes and impaired judgment. This can lead to dangerous situations, including motor vehicle collisions, falls and other injuries/incidents. Nitrous oxide has the potential to cause death and if used whilst in control of a vehicle may have fatal consequences not only for those within but outside.
“This event aims to raise awareness specific to the potential outcome of using nitrox oxide when responsible for a vehicle. In want of keeping the community safe.”
Sergeant Jamie Wilkinson of Steerside Enforcement Team in Bradford District said: “We are proud to be supporting this event and working in partnership with our fire and health colleagues to raise awareness of the dangers of nitrous oxide.
“This is all part of our commitment to making the roads of Bradford District safer under the Vision Zero ambition.
“Vision Zero is a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all road users.”
The Nitrous Oxide Awareness Event takes place on Sunday, March 19, from 11am to 3pm in Centenary Square, Bradford.