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Driving and diabetes

The Accu-Chek drivers survey revealed that many drivers with insulin-treated diabetes are unclear about the DVLA recommendations.1 Having diabetes does not mean you cannot drive, however there are some things to keep in mind before getting behind the wheel.

Having diabetes requires you to be aware and take control of your condition whilst driving on the road. It is important to consider how it might impact you and other drivers, so knowing how to deal with your diabetes whilst driving will help you keep you on the road and hopefully hazard free.

Practice safe driving

Your ability to drive safely may be affected if you have a blood glucose level of 5.0mmol/l or below. If your blood glucose level is less than 4.0mmol/l or you feel hypoglycaemic, do not drive.2

Be prepared:

  • Take regular breaks
  • Keep snacks in your vehicle
  • Always carry a blood glucose meter, additional tests strips and lancets with you
  • Test no more than 2 hours before the start of the first journey and break long journeys to test every two hours whilst driving. More frequent testing may be required if for any reason there is a greater risk of hypoglycaemia for example after physical activity or altered meal routine.2
  • Some medication may cause hypoglycaemia – check with your healthcare professional

Common hypoglycaemic symptoms whilst driving could include:

  • Staying in lane may take more concentration
  • Finding it more difficult to focus your eyes
  • Changes in body temperature - having a warm flush or suddenly feeling cold
  • Starting to feel tired and/or yawning
  • Feeling a tingling sensation, particularly in your fingers, lips or tongue
  • Shaking and uncontrolled movement
  • A rise in your heart beat
  • Feeling hungry
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Stronger emotions than usual, such as angry, frustrated, worried, confused

What to do if you feel hypoglycaemic while driving?

  • Stop driving as soon as it is safe to do so and secure your vehicle
  • Take the keys out of the ignition and move to the passenger or rear seat until the symptoms have completely passed
  • Take glucose tablets or have a sugary drink
  • Eat some carbohydrate such as biscuits
  • Do not start driving again for at least 45 minutes after a hypo
  • Test your blood glucose to ensure it is safe to continue your journey

Diabetes and your driving licence

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in Great Britain and the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Northern Ireland have an obligation to make sure the roads are safe. If you have diabetes and intend to drive, the law requires you do the following two things:

  1. Inform the DVLA or DVA if:
    • You are applying for your first driving licence, regardless of treatment type. In Northern Ireland, the DVA must also be informed for licence renewals.
    • Your diabetes is being treated with insulin
    • Your diabetes is being treated with tablets or non-insulin injections if:
      • you hold a bus, coach or lorry licence OR
      • you have been advised to do so by your healthcare professional
    • You develop diabetes-related problems that may affect your ability to drive safely, for example, eyesight complications or loss of sensation in the legs
    • You have frequent episodes of hypoglycaemia
    • You are changing treatment type (e.g. starting on insulin) or your medical condition worsens
    • You have been advised to do so by your healthcare professional for any other reason
  2. Inform your insurance company.
    • Failure to do so can invalidate your cover in the event of a claim.
    • Failure to notify DVLA or DVA can also affect your insurance cover. Your insurance company may specifically request a letter from them regarding your condition.

If you ride a motorcycle or scooter, the same rules apply. However, you will need to meet additional medical requirements to drive larger vehicles. If you’re a professional driver you should discuss your diabetes with your healthcare professional and consult the DVLA or DVA. You may apply to be assessed individually for fitness to drive particular vehicles and must meet a number of conditions.

Additional considerations:

  • Eyesight - Clearly, good eyesight is vital for safe driving. Talk to your eye specialist or healthcare professional for more information.
  • Pregnancy - If you develop gestational diabetes and have to start on insulin, you must inform the DVLA or DVA immediately.

If you live in the Republic of Ireland please refer to regulations stipulated by the Road Safety Authority (RSA).

Driving and your healthcare professional

It is usual for your healthcare professional to provide an overview of your individual circumstances and blood glucose control to the DVLA or DVA. This gives them guidance when assessing your ability to drive. Be clear and open with your healthcare professional when discussing your diabetes experiences.

Further information

DVLA (Great Britain)
https://www.gov.uk/diabetes-driving
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/assessing-fitness-to-drive-a-guide-for-medical-professionals
https://www.gov.uk/contact-the-dvla

DVA (Northern Ireland)
https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/information-and-services/motoring

RSA (Republic of Ireland)
http://www.rsa.ie

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  1. Accu-Chek Drivers Survey August 2011
  2. Guidelines as of May 2016. Please check the DVLA website regularly for the latest regulations. https://www.gov.uk/diabetes-driving