Behind the wheel with diabetes

As someone on insulin I have to be particularly careful when driving. More than just testing blood sugar levels before each journey I’m conscious of where my sugar levels may be pretty much throughout the whole journey. I find I tend be pretty much constantly aware of how I’m feeling to make sure I avoid low blood sugars and any danger of an accident.

Knowing whether I’m low
One situation that I tend to be very careful of is if I’m not feeling a hundred per cent. If I have even a slight cold or a mild touch of man flu, it could mask some of my hypo symptoms.

Feeling ill could mean:

  • Feeling more tired
  • Experience unusual changes in body temperature
  • Being less sharp with making decisions
  • More prone to exaggerated emotions (eg becoming annoyed at other drivers!)

These aren’t ideal for driving to start with and furthermore, they’re also all relatively common hypo symptoms for me. If, for example, I were to drive whilst feeling lethargic, it would be more difficult to spot any tiredness as a result of my blood sugar crashing down to low levels.

Keeping blood sugar levels safe whilst driving
I check my blood sugars before any journey and if the level is low I won’t set off until the level is back above 4.0 mmols/L (following the DVLA recommendations).

If my journey lasts longer than 2 hours, I’ll stop to test blood glucose levels within every 2 hours. Should the levels turn out to be low, I’ll need to wait until the levels are back up to the safe level (above 5.0 mmols/L) before setting off.

I keep a pack of glucose tablets within easy reach. If at any point I’m in doubt as to whether my levels may be low, I’ll eat a tablet or two and look to stop to test my levels.

High blood sugars
High blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia) can also be problematic for driving. High levels can lead to irritability, tiredness, poor decision making and –with particularly high sugar levels- blurred vision.
To maintain good blood sugar control, I will try and keep my levels below 8.0 mmols/L. It is not unusual for me to finish a journey with figures above 9.0 mmols/L and, whilst not ideal, I am pleased not to have been driving in hypoglycemia territory.

Managing diabetes when driving
Diabetes in general always seems to give me one extra thing to think about in most situations and with driving it’s particularly the case. It can be annoying at times, especially if I’m in a hurry to get going or if I have to find somewhere to pull in to check levels mid journey but I’ll take a little inconvenience over being unsure as to whether I’m safe to drive.

  • How is driving for you? Is every journey a worry or does it have little impact?
  • Does a pump rather than injections make a difference with driving?
  • Anyone with tips for making sure your levels are in the right place?
  • Any tips for professional drivers with diabetes?

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About the author

Benedict Jephcote

I have been researching and writing about diabetes for the best part of a decade. I have a passion for helping people with diabetes and championing their rights. Outside of diabetes, I have a love of music and seventeenth and eighteenth century history.

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