Being able to drive your car to school, work, or wherever else you desire can give you a sense of freedom and control. Having diabetes doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re unable to drive independently. Many people with diabetes continue to drive safely.
If your diabetes isn’t well-controlled, you may experience greater complications and risk. Experts have debated about whether a diabetes diagnosis, particularly if you’re on medications that increase insulin levels, should be a factor in determining your eligibility for a driver’s license. Although the American Diabetes Association says that people with diabetes can generally drive safely, some people feel that it poses an unnecessary risk.
People with diabetes generally pose no greater safety risk while driving than the average driver who doesn’t have diabetes. Your ability to drive is generally affected if your diabetes is controlled by medications that lower blood sugar. This is primarily a concern for those who are on insulin and have a history of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. If your blood sugar is too low, you may experience symptoms or it may trigger a related condition that can affect your ability to drive.
If you have low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, it can cause:
– a loss of consciousness
– blurred vision
Researchers in a study of 452 drivers with type 1 diabetes asked participants to self-report any episodes of hypoglycemia over the course of one year. They also asked them to report whether these episodes impacted their driving.
Plan Ahead to Avoid Blood Sugar Dips
Here’s a basic outline of how to handle driving with diabetes:
– Test blood sugar. If you’re at risk for hypoglycemia, “don’t ever get in the car without checking your blood sugar,” emphasizes Kranick. Your blood sugar should be around 150 mg/dL.
– Correct blood sugar. If your blood sugar is too low, do not get behind the wheel. Wait 15 minutes to check your blood sugar again after eating or drinking one of the following:
– 15 grams of a simple carbohydrate
– 4 glucose tabs
– 4 ounces of soda or fruit juice
– Plan ahead. Keep healthy snacks in the car for emergencies. Make sure you have enough supplies for testing and correcting blood sugar in case you’re stuck away from home for longer than you planned.
– Check blood sugar regularly. If you’re taking a long car trip, plan on checking your blood sugar every two to four hours. Make sure you have a stash of supplies to keep your blood sugar under control.
The bottom line
Each person’s medical needs vary regardless of whether they have diabetes, and no two cases of diabetes are the same. Your doctor will assess your individual symptoms and make a recommendation that’s appropriate for you.
If your doctor says it’s OK for you to drive, you should be able to retain or apply for your license successfully. If your doctor finds that you may be unable to drive safely, you can discuss your other options for transportation with them. Depending on your situation, this may include having a friend or family member drive you around or using public transportation.