The extensive CCTV system in Tower Hamlets is to be used to attack the double curse of thugs driving dangerously while under the influence of Nitrous Oxide, aka ‘laughing gas.’
Thugs in cars ‘effectively unconscious’
According to a road safety expert those who do drive after taking laughing gas can effectively be unconscious for up to ten seconds during which their car can travel over 130 metres.
Tower Hamlets Council, supported by road safety charity IAMRoadsmart and the Borough police will use the Borough’s network of CCTV, believed to be one of the most extensive in the UK, to target those who drive at speed after snorting laughing gas from balloons.
Wapping a delinquent’s racetrack
This is a Borough-wide problem but Wapping residents in particular have seen their neighbourhood turn into a delinquent’s racetrack resulting in law-abiding residents hesitant to walk the streets.
The fear of being struck by a car that mounts the pavement while out of control is very real.
CCTV will be used to identify dangerous driving, council enforcement staff will inform the police of the location and those who are repeatedly responsible could have their cars seized and sent that day to the car pound.
Police powerless to test NO2 drivers
“Our residents have told us they are concerned about people driving dangerously under the influence of Nitrous Oxide, but because it is a gas, the police are powerless to test those who take it as they would do with other drugs or alcohol,” said John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets.
“People driving while high on laughing gas are a danger to themselves as well as every other road user.”
“It is still far too easy to purchase nitrous oxide online and in shops. Councils are having to clear up the mess and keep their residents safe, and the government should look at ways to strengthen the police and council’s hand in dealing with this problem.”
The CCTV approach compliments the Council’s ‘No Laughing Matter’ campaign to tackle some of the problems caused by nitrous oxide, including littering, anti-social behaviour and dangerous driving by people under the influence of laughing gas.
Drivers effectively unconscious for 130m
Neil Greig, IAMRoadsmart’s Director of Policy, provides a frightening insight of the reality of drivers actions under the influence of laughing gas:
If nitrous oxide is inhaled while driving, the user has little control over the strength of the dose and so can lead to euphoria or unconsciousness.
The driver’s attention will be completely distracted from the road for the 10 seconds or so of the ‘rush’.
The driver is effectively unconscious for over 130 metres or almost 150 yards.
Driving under the influence of nitrous oxide, however briefly, is as dangerous and anti-social as driving while drunk.
Nitrous Oxide Facts
- Although the gas was previously a ‘legal high’ it is now illegal to supply or import nitrous oxide for personal use.
- Nitrous oxide is used as pain relief during medical procedures such as dental work.
- It can also be legally bought for use in whipped cream dispensers.
- Nitrous oxide can cause dizziness and affect the taker’s judgement. This can put people at risk of hurting themselves. Further research is taking place into long-term effects, with some health conditions and deaths linked to its use.
This latest attempt by Tower Hamlets Council to eliminate the curse of idiots driving at speed around our roads while under the influence of laughing gas is to be applauded.
Many residents we talk to are dismissive of the the CCTV network as while there are cameras everywhere evidence of them ever being used is harder to find.
In contrast other residents consider the installation of CCTV in a particular trouble-spot to be a technological magic wand that will cure all ills.
Maybe the reality is somewhere in-between.
The only proof of the effectiveness of the new approach will be cars turned into scrap and ideally their drivers arrested for dangerous driving, charged, tried and – if found guilty – punished.
Residents rightly expect severe punishment for these people. Unfortunately it is unlikely the justice system is capable of delivering this.
Those convicted in the courts of such behaviour should be publicly named and shamed so that they, their families and their communities are aware they cannot risk the lives of others without suffering the consequences.
LW looks forward to publishing lots of photographs of cars being turned into scrap and the identities of their drivers.
With a bit of luck it will be decent residents who have the last laugh.