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Driving and diabetes

Having diabetes doesn’t automatically mean you cannot drive. There are things you need to know and depending on your diabetes therapy you may need to be monitoring at certain times. Having diabetes requires you to be aware of your condition whilst driving on the road.

Great news - giving you a choice of how to check!

As of February 2019, the DVLA has changed the rules on driving with insulin treated diabetes.1 If you do have insulin treated diabetes and drive a car or motorcycle (Group 1 licence) you now have a choice how you check blood glucose levels. You can check with a finger prick test, a flash glucose monitoring device or a continuous glucose monitoring device to check your blood glucose when you drive. If you are a Group 2 driver (lorry or bus) you will still need to check your blood glucose with a finger prick test.

holding car steering wheel

However, you still need to carry your blood glucose meter and strips with you when driving, in case you need to do a confirmatory finger prick check. This is advised in the following circumstances:1

  • If your glucose level is 4.0mmol/L or below.
  • If you have symptoms of hypoglycaemia.
  • If your glucose monitoring system gives a reading that is not consistent with your symptoms (e.g. you have symptoms of hypoglycaemia and your system reading does not indicate this).
  • If you are aware that you have become hypoglycaemic or have indication of impending hypoglycaemia.
  • At any other times recommended by the manufacturer of your glucose monitoring system.

If you are using a Real Time - Continuous Glucose Monitor (RT-CGM) or blood glucose monitor (BGM) you must not actively use this whilst driving your vehicle. You must pull over in a safe location before checking your device.

Regardless of your choice of how to check your glucose levels, you must still adhere to the DVLA guidelines if your diabetes is treated with insulin or certain medication that could cause hypos. Speak to your Healthcare Professional if you are unsure whether this applies to you.

DVLA guidelines state:

  • If your glucose is 5.0mmol/L or less, eat a snack. If it is less than 4.0mmol/L or you feel hypoglycaemic do not drive.
  • You should check your glucose less than 2 hours before the start of the first journey and every 2 hours during your journey.
  • A maximum of 2 hours should pass between the pre-driving glucose check and the first glucose check in your journey.
  • More frequent testing may be required if you are at higher risk of hypoglycaemia e.g. after exercise.
  • Always keep an emergency supply of fast-acting carbohydrate such as glucose tablets or sweets in the car where you can reach them.
  • You should carry personal identification to show that you have diabetes in case of injury in a road traffic accident.
  • You should take extra care during changes of insulin regimens, changes of lifestyle, exercise, travel and pregnancy.
  • You must eat regular meals, snacks and rest periods on long journeys. Always avoid alcohol.

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:

Inform the DVLA or DVA if:

car driving through countryside

You are applying for your first driving licence, regardless of treatment type. In Northern Ireland, the DVA must also be informed for licence renewals. You also need to inform the DVLA if:

  • 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.
  • You also need to 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 – 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 may drive and need not notify the DVLA, provided you are under medical supervision and not advised by clinician as at risk of disabling hypoglycaemia. You may continue to drive but must notify the DVLA if disabling hypoglycaemia occurs or treatment continues for more than 3 months – or in gestational diabetes, continues for 3 months after delivery. Speak to your Healthcare Professional if you have any concerns.
  • 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 management 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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