More than 4.9 million people in the UK live with diabetes and there are two main types. With the majority of people (90%) being diagnosed with type 2. The disease should not limit your fun - it just means planning your activities, such as driving, in advance!
Can you drive if you are diabetic?
Yes! Having diabetes should not affect your ability to drive - unless your doctor has advised otherwise. Your insurance should not be affected by your health condition either, provided you have made the DVSA aware.
Some precautions may need to be taken to ensure the safety of yourself and others around you. Hypoglycaemia (hypo) is when your blood glucose level is too low, usually below 4mmol/l. Hypos can come on fast and happen due to a range of different reasons. Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it is dangerous to drive when experiencing a hypo!
Here is a list of Marmalade’s best tips for managing diabetes before and during driving (of course, this is general advice, if you need personalised advice, we’d recommend you speak to your health professional).
Plan your journey
Whether it’s a long or short trip, make sure you plan your route! Planning your route beforehand will help you to identify safe places to stop in case of an emergency and find the quickest route to your destination! It is important to not skip any meals, so you will also need to factor in your departure/arrival times as well as any breaks. Remember to check your blood glucose levels every 2 hours and take regular breaks on longer journeys.
Below is a checklist outlining some of the things you will need to remember to take with you on car journeys:
· Blood glucose meter
· Blood glucose strips
· Hypo treatments such as snacks which contain carbohydrates
· Personal identification – in case of an emergency
5 to drive with diabetes
Testing your blood sugar levels will help you to notice if your blood sugar levels have dropped too low. Give yourself some time before your journey to test and ensure that your blood glucose levels are above 5mmol/l. Anything between 4mmol/l and 5mmol/l should be treated with carbohydrates before you start driving. If your levels are below 4mmol/l you need to treat your hypo and check your levels again before you drive.
If you experience a hypo whilst driving, it is the law that you must stop driving in order to prevent an accident. It is important that you find a safe place to pull over where you can switch off the engine and move to the passenger side of the vehicle. Always try to stay calm and take fast-acting carbohydrates such as some glucose tablets or sweets. Additionally, you should bring some longer-lasting carbohydrate snacks such as bananas or cereal bars. It will take 45 minutes after your blood sugar level has returned to normal for it to be safe for you to continue driving.
If you are experiencing regular hypos, you can discuss options with your healthcare team. Severe hypos need to be reported to the DVLA as they are a lot more serious. You can be fined up to £1,000 if you do not tell the DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving. Find out more about severe hypos here.
Find an alternative method of transport
If you are having a particularly bad day or you are worried about driving due to your diabetes, there are always alternative ways to travel. Maybe you could ask a friend or family member (find the latest government guidance on social distancing here) or you could use the bus. Remember, it is always better to be safe!
Hopefully, the tips in this article have helped you to understand the importance of planning your journeys and how to cope with a hypo when driving. Thorough planning beforehand and having a backup plan will help you to remain calm in an emergency. If you would like more information on this topic, please visit the NHS website.
It’s ok to feel a bit anxious before driving, especially if you’ve had a break due to an illness, why not check out Chloe’s article on how to handle nerves after a break in driving.