On the Road with Diabetes: Yield to Hypoglycemia

People who have diabetes depend on their ability to drive just as much as anyone else. But driving when you have diabetes requires extra precautions.

It’s not enough that you check your blind spot before pulling away from the curb; that you practice good anger management skills if you are cut off while making a left; and that you carry a respectable amount of insurance.

People with diabetes have to keep driving skills from becoming impeded by the possibility of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.

People who take some oral medications and/or insulin are at risk for developing hypoglycemia. Having a hypoglycemic reaction—which can include headache, fatigue, blurred vision, perspiration, hunger and difficulty concentrating—when behind the wheel can have disastrous consequences for you and possibly for others.

You can lose your license if you have an accident while experiencing a low blood glucose reaction. But far more truculent, if you hit another car while having a hypoglycemic episode you can cause serious harm to yourself and others.

There is not a uniform code of driving regulations for people with diabetes in the United States. Each state determines its own rules, with some states placing restrictions on people who experience significant episodes of hypoglycemia. Many states require those with diabetes to submit to a medical evaluation. In fact, physicians in some states are required to report patients who experience severe hypoglycemia to the state licensing board.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) came out with the following statement:

-Determining driving fitness should be on an individual basis and further intervention should be initiated based on responses to a short questionnaire identifying those individuals at risk.

-Questionnaires should focus on the following history:
Loss of consciousness due to hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia requiring intervention of another person
Hypoglycemia developing without warning
Loss of visual acuity
Loss of feeling in the feet

Patient education is especially important. The ADA recommends on their website that everyone with diabetes who drives:

-Stop for a diabetes red light. Treat low BG and then recheck in 15 minutes. Do not get behind the wheel until BG is in the target range.

-Slow down. Treat BG even if it means being late. It’s never ok to drive with a low BG.

-Call whoever is waiting for you and explain why you’ll be a little late. They’ll understand.

-Always have enough fuel. Stock the car with healthy, non-perishable snacks and fast-acting sugars. And keep your D-supplies within easy reach.

-Pull over. Pull over immediately if you are feeling sick or low while driving. Check your BG, treat yourself, wait 15 minutes and then recheck.

-ID, please!! Don’t leave home without a driver’s license and medical ID bracelet or necklace. Always wear medical ID.

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