Driving while impaired is one of the foremost causes of fatal car accident. In most cases the driver is under the influence of alcohol, in other cases, illegal drugs such as marijuana are involved. But recently two brothers were killed when the driver of another car smashed into them head-on after inhaling a balloon filled with nitrous oxide.

You may be familiar with nitrous oxide as the ‘laughing gas’ provided as a painkiller during dental procedures. But it is also misused by some as a way to achieve a quick high. Canisters of the gas are sold legally at head shops and other locations in California. The actress Demi Moore recently suffered a seizure after inhaling the gas.

According to law enforcement authorities a 22-year-old man had purchased 50 canisters of nitrous oxide from a California head shop. No sooner did he leave the store than he had filled a balloon with the gas and inhaled it. He told police that he felt like he was “in a cloud.” Within minutes he was driving his car and crossed over the center line. He struck another car carrying two brothers aged 32 and 37. They were both killed in the crash, another occupant of the brother’s car was seriously injured.

When a reporter contacted the head shop where the 22-year-old allegedly purchased the canisters of nitrous oxide, an employee confirmed that they sold the product but insisted that he had never heard of anyone using the gas as a recreational drug. This despite the fact that they are sold alongside marijuana smoking accessories and glass pipes. The employee asserted customers instead purchase them for use in their cappuccino makers.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, “Nitrous oxide DUI suspect to face vehicular manslaughter trial,” Andy Furillo, April 25, 2012