Tips for Safe Driving with Diabetes – Problems, Solutions, Regulations

Posted April 6, 2020 by Clint Kelly - See Editorial Guidelines

Driving with a medical condition can be dangerous, but what makes it so dangerous? And why is diabetes one of those conditions that can make driving hazardous? In this article, we will provide you with the answers to those questions, along with tips for safe driving with diabetes.

Here is a quick summary for you before getting into more details.

Tips for Safe Driving with Diabetes: When driving with diabetes, it is recommended that you check your blood sugar before getting behind the wheel and during any breaks or stops you take. You should know warning signs of dangerously high or low blood sugars. Those with diabetes are also at risk for low blood sugar, so keeping fast-acting carbohydrates handy in your car is crucial.

Here is everything you should know about safe driving with diabetes.

Why Driving with Diabetes can be Dangerous

Tips for Safe Driving with Diabetes

There are two main ways driving with diabetes can be dangerous. The first and most dangerous is driving with hypoglycemia.

Those with diabetes, especially those on insulin therapy, are at a higher risk of having a low blood sugar event. A low blood sugar event can be life-threatening, especially if you’re behind the wheel of a car.

Hypoglycemia can make it extremely difficult to concentrate. You may become shaky, nervous, dizzy, confusion, and you may experience cold sweats. If hypoglycemia becomes worse, then an individual may pass out and have a seizure.

This makes driving with low blood sugar self-explanatory. If you are behind the wheel of a car and have a severe low blood sugar event, then you are putting yourself and others at risk. An accident can easily occur if the person with diabetes becomes too confused or become unconscious.

The other instance where driving with diabetes can be dangerous is if the person has hyperglycemia. High blood sugar levels can make an individual feel very tired and can also cause nausea. This makes driving with diabetes dangerous. If the individual has severe high blood sugar, then they can easily fall asleep.

I had an instance with high blood sugar while driving, where I had to pull over into a rest stop. I noticed I was abnormally tired and felt myself dosing off towards the beginning of a 10-hour road trip. I checked my blood sugar after pulling over, and my blood sugar was upwards of 300 mg/dL. I had to adjust my insulin pump and lay in my car for about 30-40 minutes before getting back on the road.

What Blood Sugar is too High to Drive?

Unfortunately, there is no specific answer to what blood sugar is too high to drive. However, I can give you my personal experience.

Ever since using a continuous glucose monitor, I can easily check my blood sugar and relate it to how I’m feeling. What I have noticed is that if my blood sugar reaches the 225-250 mg/dL, I start to really notice the negative effects of diabetes. I begin to feel fatigued and tired. Therefore, I have made this my cutoff point for driving.

Any blood sugar over 250 mg/dL becomes unsafe for performing activities, such as driving. To ensure safe driving with diabetes, work towards keeping your blood sugar in a normal range.

What Blood Sugar is too Low to Drive?

It is recommended that you never start driving with blood sugar that is on the lower end. This includes blood sugar that is anything below 70 mg/dL. If your blood sugar is below 80 mg/dL, then be cautious.

Keep track of when you last gave yourself insulin and how many carbohydrates you’ve consumed. You cannot drive safely with diabetes without knowing what your blood sugar is before you start driving.

Tips for Safe Driving with Diabetes

Here are the best tips for safe driving with diabetes:

Check Blood Sugar Often

Tips for Safe Driving with Diabetes

One key tip to safe driving with diabetes is to check your blood sugar often. By checking your blood sugar often, even when you’re not on the road, you begin to understand the trends in your glucose levels. This allows you to have better control over your blood glucose.

You should also check your blood sugar before you get in the car to start driving. Regardless of the distance you are driving, you should know what your blood sugar is. Some individuals may not be able to tell whether their blood sugar is low or not.

Therefore, if this individual has low blood sugar, decides not to test their blood, and starts driving, then they may be in for some trouble. They are putting other lives at risk by doing this.

To ensure you are managing your diabetes and driving safely, you have to check your blood sugar often, especially before getting behind the wheel. Safe blood sugars for driving include that over 80 mg/dL and under 250 mg/dL. However, you should try your best to keep your blood sugar between 80-130 mg/dL.

Know the Warning Signs

A person with diabetes should know the warning signs of both high and low blood sugar in order to make sure they are not just driving safe but staying healthy.

Warnings signs and symptoms of high blood sugar include:

  • Headache
  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Blurry vision
  • Tired feeling
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating

Warning signs and symptoms of low blood sugar include:

  • Sweating
  • Nervousness/shakiness
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Slurred speech
  • Unsteadiness when standing or walking

If low blood sugar is severe and left untreated right away, then it can lead to a seizure, loss of consciousness, and possibly death.

Keep Snacks Handy

Tips for Safe Driving with Diabetes

Though high blood sugar is unhealthy, it is not an immediate danger. On the other hand, low blood sugar is an emergency that must be treated right away, as it can be life-threatening.

Low blood sugar is typically treated fast-acting carbs such as candy, fruit juice, or non-diet soda. Therefore, for safe driving with diabetes, you must always keep fast-acting carbs and snacks handy in your car.

If you were to look in my car, you would find multiple protein and granola bars, along with glucose gels or candy, tucked away in the center console and glove box.

Keeping snacks that can treat low blood sugar handy while driving can make driving with diabetes safe for you, the passengers in your car, and other drivers on the road.

Take Breaks for Longer Road Trips

If you are going on a long road trip, then consider taking breaks more often. This will keep you from getting tired, as well as allow you to check your blood sugar.

It would also be a good idea to take breaks often to give you an opportunity to walk around. This allows your blood to flow better than if you were sitting in a static position for hours on end.

Diabetes can cause blood vessels to narrow, especially in the lower extremities. By walking around and stretching, you are stimulating blood flow. This keeps your body healthy and can help regulate blood sugar levels.

Therefore, if you have diabetes and are on a long road trip, plan to take breaks often. It may be inconvenient if you are trying to stick to a schedule, but safe driving with diabetes is of utmost importance.

Get Regular Eye Exams

Getting regular eye exams is important for those with diabetes. Those with diabetes should receive a dilated eye exam every year unless your doctor suggests every 2-3 years.

Diabetes can significantly impact the eyes in negative ways, as the eye has many small blood vessels. Those with diabetes are twice as likely to have glaucoma and other eye problems. If you have not had an eye exam in a while, then you may not notice if you have damage to the small blood vessels of your eye. Therefore, your vision may be gradually becoming worse over the years.

Driving without knowing the severity of your eye problems may be unsafe. To ensure safe driving with diabetes, consider having an eye exam regularly.

Rules and Restrictions for Driving with Diabetes

The rules and restrictions for driving with diabetes will vary from state to state. Some states may not require any documentation regarding your medical condition to acquire a driver’s license. However, at least 23 states require documentation that discloses a person’s diagnosis of type 1 diabetes to obtain a driver’s license.

Some states, including Texas and Minnesota, require the patient to have a doctor provide a medical evaluation stating that the individual can safely drive with diabetes. Massachusetts and Connecticut require the individual to report any condition that can result in unsafe driving. They then must submit an evaluation from their doctor.

For the most up to date information regarding restrictions for driving with diabetes, contact your local DMV.

Conclusion

We hope this has given you more insight into driving with diabetes. Diabetes can be a relentless disease that requires constant monitoring, even while driving. If you are concerned about driving with your medical condition, then talk to your doctor.

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