Diabetes and Driving
People with diabetes have certain resposibilities when it comes to driving a vehicle, this includes ensuring they are safe to drive. As time progesses the treatment of a person’s diabetes may change and it is that person’s responsibilty to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) of those changes. The doctor or nurse can also inform the DVLA if a person has needed help to treat their low blood sugar levels and this can result in the person losing their licence for a period of one year.
The DVLA guidelines are periodically updated and it is the responsibility of the person with diabetes to check with DVLA. A good way of keeping up to date is checking the DVLA website or Diabetes UK www.diabetes.org.uk The driver can be fined up to £1000 for failing to inform the DVLA of a medical condition that affects their driving.
When should I inform the DVLA?
Type 2 diabetes
In general people who are newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are given information on diet and lifestyle changes, which will help reduce their blood sugar levels. It is not necessary to inform the DVLA if this is the treatment for your diabetes. People often progess to be treated with tablet medication. They are not required to inform DVLA of this change if they drive Group 1 vehicles only, such as a car or motor cycle.
If a person drives a Group 2 vehicle such as bus, coach or lorry and they are treated by diet only, they do not need to inform the DVLA. If their treatment changes and they are prescribed tablets to treat their diabetes then they must inform the DVLA.
If the person with Type 2 diabetes commences insulin therapy they must inform the DVLA of this change. This is for both Group 1 and Group 2 drivers.
The exceptions to this for Group 1 drivers are when the insulin treatment is less 3 months
Type 1 diabetes
You are required to inform the DVLA of a diagnosis of diabetes when you are being treated with insulin. You must contact the DVLA
The main risk associated with diabetes and driving arises from having an episode of low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia). This is a complication of the treatment rather than the diabetes itself.
Catergories of treatment that need to inform DVLA
|Group 1 driverCar or motorcycle
|Group 2 driversBus, coach or lorry
|Diet and metformin
|Diet and sulphonylureas
|Non insulin injections
|Temporary insulin therapy(Less than 3 months)
|Temporary insulin therapy(Longer than 3 months)
What complications are important?
There are certain circumstances when a person with diabetes must inform the DVLA irrespective of what treament they are on.
Impaired hypo awareness – this is when there is a delay in recognising the symptoms of low blood sugar levels.
Experiencing a disabling hypo this is when your blood sugar drops so low that you require assistance from someone else to treat it.
Laser treatment – requiring laser treatment or equivalent to both eyes, or if you have no sight in one eye and are having laser treatment to the other.
Reading a number plate – you must be able to read a number plate at 20.5 meters or 67 feet whilst wearing corrective glasses
Circulation or sensation problems in legs or feet – this is if the problems require you to drive only certain types of vehicles for example – automatic vehicles or those with hand operated brakes and accelerator.
How do I contact the DVLA?
Visit the DVLA website, or write to:
The Medical Adviser
Drivers Medical Unit
Swansea, SA99 1TU
Or Telephone: 0300 790 6806
How does this affect my insurance?
Diabetes must be disclosed to your insurer at time of diagnosis and renewal of policy. Changes in treatment and complications must also be disclosed at this time. Failing to notify your insurer may render any claims you subsequently make, invalid. Not all insurance companies will load their policies in the same way and there is no single insurance scheme which will be the cheapest in every case. Contact Diabetes UK for further advice.
I drive a commercial vehicle, will I be allowed to continue?
The law previously did not allow people with diabetes treated with insulin to hold a group 2 licence. A change in the regulations enables people with insulin treated diabetes to apply for any Group 2 licence. Group 2 vehicles are now classified as Large Goods Vehicles (LGVs) and Passenger Carrying Vehicles (PCVs). Group 2 drivers with insulin treated diabetes must monitor blood glucose at least twice daily and at times relevant to driving using a glucose meter with a memory function to record blood glucose levels. They will require an annual examination by a consultant diabetologist and will have to have three months of blood glucose readings available, for inspection at this examination. The readings must be done on a meter with a memory which is also correctly calibrated for date and time .
A LGV or PCV license can be held by patients treated by diet or OHAs providing there are no visual or medical problems and they monitor their blood glucose levels as stated above.
How do I avoid hypoglycaemia?
Always check your blood sugar before a journey. During a long journey when you are driving, ensure frequent stops and check your sugar levels at least every two hours. Have a small snack as required.
Always carry a source of fast acting carbohydrate food in the car such as glucose tablets, jelly babies, a small carton or fruit juice or a small can of non-diet cola. Keep a supply of longer acting carbohydrate snacks available in case of delays.
What to do in the event of a low blood sugar (hypo) whilst driving
Stop driving as soon as it is safe to do so. Remove the keys from the ignition and place in the footwell or glove box. Move from the drivers seat if it is safe to do so. If on the Motorway leave your car with hazard warnings on and move to a position of safety.
Check blood sugar level and take your normal short acting treatment for a hypo such as:-
- 5-6 glucose tablets
- 4 jelly babies
- 200mls of concentrated fruit juice
- a small can of non-diet cola (150mls)
Repeat the above treatments if you check your blood sugar and it is not coming back up after 10 minutes. When feeling better it is important to have some longer acting carbohydrate such as:-
- 2 digestive biscuits
- 4 rich tea biscuits
- a banana
- 1 slice of bread
- a small chocolate bar
Once you have treated the hypo and are feeling better you must not drive for at least 45 minutes, this is because your response rate will be slower.
Tips for safer driving
- Test your blood sugar level prior to driving.
- A safe level is 5mmols/l – “5 to drive”.
- Always carry short and long acting carbohydrates in the carwithin easy reach of the driver.
- Avoid missing or delaying meals.
- Retest blood sugar levels every two hours on a long journey.
- Ensure you carry some ID to let people know you have diabetes.
- If you are involved in an accident, regardless of fault, test your blood sugar to demonstate whether or not they were hypo.
- Do not drink alcohol and drive.
Remember if you have an accident which is attributed to hypoglycaemia you may be liable to a charge of driving under the influence of drugs.
If you have an unexplained attack of hypoglycaemia do not drive until you have addressed the cause. Discuss this further with your doctor or diabetes nurse.