Diabetic drivers

The legalities of driving as a Diabetic

There’s been a lot in the news about Diabetes in recent years as awareness about the disease has improved, but also as our health as a nation has also partly declined and more diabetics are diagnosed. There are two main types of Diabetes, with sufferers commonly known as ‘Type 1 diabetic’, and ‘Type 2 diabetic’. Type 1 tends to be recognised more in youngsters and Diabetes UK explain this strain of the disease as such:

“Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells, meaning no insulin is produced. This causes glucose to quickly rise in the blood. Nobody knows exactly why this happens, but science tells us it’s got nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. About 10 per cent of people with diabetes have Type 1”.

When it comes to diabetics being ‘allowed’ to drive, there is a misconception that drivers with the disease (either strain) are less safe than those who don’t. Statistics don’t support this arguement. In fact, Diabetics are generally very well monitored. Both by their GP and their Diabetic support team on a regular basis, but also on a self-awareness and monitoring basis as well. For example, Diabetics are legally required (when driving a car, other classes are treated with their own rules) to regulary test their bloods to ensure they aren’t low enough to trigger a ‘hypo’ (whereby the sugar levels drop so low and can cause confusion in the patient, possibly even losing consciousness and causing coma). The DVLA dictates that (for car and motorcycle drivers):

  • blood glucose testing no more than 2 hours before the start of the first journey
  • every 2 hours while driving
  • applicants will be asked to sign an undertaking to comply with the directions of the healthcare professionals treating their diabetes and to report any significant change in their condition to the DVLA immediately.

More frequent self-monitoring may be required with any greater risk of hypoglycaemia (physical activity, altered meal routine).

If, as a driver you develop Diabetes (as an adult, it’s more likely to be Type 2, if you are over the age of 40), you MUST inform DVLA and they, with possible assistance from your doctor, will assess your safeness to drive. Many Type 1 diabetics are on a 3 year renewable licence meaning every 36 months, DVLA will write to the patient/driver asking them about their current circumstances and car of the disease. They may, or may not decide to contact your GP. Generally this is no more than a rubber stamping exercise and you’ll be sent a new licence lasting another 3 years, unless you’ve been having major problems or a real decline in your health and perceived ability to drive.

If as a Type 1 or a Type 2 you go from using tablets to control the disease to using insulin, you must also advise DVLA. You must also notify your insurance company.

Whilst this may look like an administrative nightmare for a ‘newbie’ diabetic, it needn’t be, and in fact, after the initial hassle it becomes a lot easier to stay on top of things (pretty much like Diabetes itself). But, regardless of whether you are a hardened long term ‘Type 1’ or a newly diagnosed ‘Type 2’, ALWAYS ensure you carry some fast acting glucose tablets of fluid in the car with you and easily accessible. An accident ahead of you on the motorway for example, or bad weather, could mean you are stranded for many hours beyond your normal meal times and these could help save your life, but they could certainly help save your licence.

AutoNational telephone operators will always ask you when you call to report a breakdown, if you are vulnerable or if you are suffering any disease requiring assistance. Mention your diabetes if you feel you need to. The writer of this article is a Type 1 diabetic.