Drug-impaired driving "alarmingly high" in Belgium, says road safety institute

A survey by the Belgian road safety institute Vias has revealed that eight per cent of Belgian drivers drive at least once a month after taking sleep aids or sedatives. Additionally, almost one in seven young drivers have driven under the influence of one or more drugs in the past month. Cannabis and nitrous oxide are the most popular substances.

Eight per cent of Belgian drivers report driving at least once a month after using sleeping or sedatives. In Brussels, 17 per cent of drivers drive after using sleep aids or tranquillisers every month, compared to 5 per cent in Flanders and 8 per cent in Wallonia.

Drug use behind the wheel remains "alarmingly high", states Vias. Five per cent of the 6,000 drivers surveyed admit to having driven after taking drugs in the past month. Again, Brussels has the biggest problem (11 per cent), followed by Wallonia (6 per cent) and Flanders (4 per cent).

The use of nitrous oxide is an especially serious problem. It can cause a dazed feeling, which has an impact on driving and cannot be detected with a test. "In addition, it can be particularly distracting for a driver if other occupants have a laughing fit," said Vias. The traffic institute hopes that a bill to ban the sale, transport and possession of nitrous oxide, as in the Netherlands, will be approved soon.


A drug test that determines the presence or absence of drugs as cannabis, cocaine and opiates. © BELGA PHOTO JULIEN WARNAND

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