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Driving With Diabetes

For many people, driving means being free to go wherever they want, whenever they want. When you’re behind the wheel, that freedom comes with responsibilities. What does this mean for someone living with diabetes?

Driving-related risks

According to guidelines published by Diabetes Canada, one major risk associated with driving is hypoglycemia that’s not detected in time. It causes a variety of symptoms that make traffic violations and accidents much more likely: tremors, loss of focus, drowsiness, blurred vision, dizziness, and so on.

The key is proper blood glucose management.

If your treatments are limited to lifestyle and diet adjustments, or if your medication doesn’t involve taking insulin, you can drive safely—as long as you’re alert. Generally, insulin-dependent people can also drive their cars provided they’re under a health professional’s care.

Still, one’s ability to drive a vehicle must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Note that drivers living with diabetes, depending on the province, must undergo a medical examination at least once every two years.

In addition, driving ability may be affected by other diabetes-related conditions, such as neuropathy (damage to your eyes, kidneys, nerves, etc.), motor or sensory function impairment or cardiovascular disease.

A few precautions

  • Before getting behind the wheel, watch for hypoglycemia symptoms. Make sure everything’s fine by checking your blood glucose levels.
  • If you’ve got a long drive ahead of you, bring water and snacks, take breaks to stretch your legs and stay alert.
  • Keep your blood glucose meter and your equipment in a dark, cool place.

It’s the law!

In Canada, the law requires everyone to report any medical condition that may affect their driving.

Be careful: making a false or misleading statement may result in your driver’s license being suspended with a $300 to $600 fine.

What about commercial driving?

In Canada, someone who has been diagnosed with diabetes is allowed to drive a commercial vehicle, even if they are insulin-dependent. However, their driver’s license will have to be marked with a W, which means they will be barred from driving in the US.

Diabetes should in no way restrict your freedom. But when you take the wheel, remember that your health can have an effect on both your own safety and that of others.

References:

Diabetes Canada (n.d). Diabetes and Driving. Retrieved from: https://www.diabetes.ca/health-care-providers/clinical-practice-guidelin.... Accessed August 29 2021.

Diabetes Canada (2018). Diabetes and Driving. Retrieved from: https://guidelines.diabetes.ca/docs/cpg/Ch21-Diabetes-and-Driving.pdf. Accessed August 29 2021. 

Diabetes Québec (2018). Driving and Diabetes. Retrieved from: https://www.diabete.qc.ca/en/understand-diabetes/practice/my-rights/cond.... Accessed August 29 2021. 

Diabetes Québec (2018). Hypoglycemia in an Individual with Diabetes. Retrieved from: https://www.diabete.qc.ca/en/living-with-diabetes/care-and-treatment/hyper-hypo-glycemia/hypoglycemia-low-blood-sugar-in-an-individual-with-diabetes. Accessed August 29 2021.

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