Driving Precautions When You Have Diabetes!

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 No Commented
Categorized Under: Diabetes

Diabetes can have an impact on your ability to drive safely in several ways. It puts you at risk of low blood sugar or hypoglycemia, which affects your concentration and may impair your judgement and even lead to loss of consciousness. Or, your eyesight can be affected often due to high blood sugar levels distorting your lens, or because of damage to the retina, or cataracts.

Many diabetics though can drive safely and regularly. However, a small portion of the diabetic population may have an impairment in their driving ability because of their low or high blood sugar level and the presence of diabetes complications.

According to the John Hopkins POC-IT: Point of Care Information Technology Center, 0.4 to 3 percent of life-threatening motor vehicle accidents are caused directly by medical problems and complications. The most common condition responsible for motor vehicle accidents is epilepsy. The next most common cause of accidents is insulin-treated diabetes, which comprises 18 percent of cases. Acute myocardial infarction is present in 8 percent of cases.

In the United States, people with Type 1 diabetes have a 31 percent risk of being admitted to hospital due to accidents triggered by hypoglycemia. In Type 2 diabetes only 8 percent end up having this problem. In a survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it was mentioned diabetic drivers have 1.44 times more “at-fault accidents” compared to drivers without this health problem. You see, cognitive dysfunction associated with acute and chronic alterations in blood sugar levels usually alters the ability of a driver with diabetes.

What causes the increased risk for accidents when diabetics are at the wheel?

Diabetics with unstable blood sugar levels have increased metabolic demands on their body, this leads to:

  • an increased heart rate,
  • greater epinephrine release, and
  • more autonomic symptoms,

making them more prone to road accidents.

Points to consider while driving:

  • always be aware of your blood sugar level. In most cases, mild hypoglycemia may go undetected. Check your blood sugar level before you drive and every 2 hours when on a long trip. Your driving ability will be impaired if your blood sugar goes below 72mg/dL (4mmol/L).
  • keep glucose tables or a rapid acting glucose drink in the glove box of your car.
  • if symptoms of hypoglycemia occur, pull over and stop driving. Don’t resume driving until your blood sugar is over 99mg/dL (5.5mmol/L). Your thinking and judgement may take up to an hour to return to normal.
  • alcohol in the previous 12 hours increases the risk of hypoglycemia.
  • the risk of hypoglycemia is increased after playing sport.
  • try to avoid driving if you have made major changes to your insulin regime.

Motor vehicle accidents directly caused by diabetes is relatively rare, says John Hopkins POC-IT: Point of Care Information Technology Center. However, blood sugar level awareness is still necessary to avoid possible accidents from occurring. The more cautious you become in monitoring your blood sugar level and by being aware about the possible symptoms of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia, the safer it will be for you.