Diabetes is not a problem driving a car, as long as it is controlled. Besides the complications it generates over the years (of which the most important is reducing the eyesight) the most dangerous is hypoglycaemia. For insulin-dependent diabetics, having always in the car near you, a bottle of juice is needed and similar to have your ignition key with you when you start the engine. Foods or juices with high sugar content can save lives and not just yours but that of traffic participants
Having diabetes does not mean you cannot drive a car or a motorbike. Given that your diabetes is well controlled, and you doctor states that you are safe to drive, there is no reason why you cannot have or hang on to a driving licence. Nonetheless, you do need to let your insurance company and the Driving and Vehicle licence Agency (DVLA) know that you have diabetes.
Who do I need to inform?
No matter how your diabetes is treated, you must by law inform your insurance company that you have diabetes.
If your diabetes is treated with insulin, you must inform the DVLA.
If your diabetes is treated with tablets or insulin and you are applying for a driving licence for the first time, you also must inform the DVLA.
You must inform the DVLA if any diabetes complications develop that may affect your ability to drive safely.
If you fail to inform the DVLA or your insurance company then your driving insurance will be invalid.
You do not need to tell the DVLA if you are treated by diet alone. However, if you change from tablets to insulin treatment, then they must be informed.
Informing the DVLA
If you are applying for licence, answer “YES” to the question if you have diabetes.
If you have a driving licence, write a letter to the DVLA telling them about your diabetes and how it is treated. If you are treated with insulin, you will be sent another form (Diabetic 1) asking for more information. This includes the name and address of your General Practitioner or hospital doctor. They will also ask for your permission to approach these people directly, if necessary, to obtain information on your fitness to drive. This does not mean, however, that you will be refused a licence.
If your diabetes is treated with insulin, a driving licence will be issued for one, two or three years, and will you allow you to drive a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes. When this licence expires you will receive a reminder to renew the licence and you may also be sent another Diabetic 1 form to complete with more up-to-date information. Renewals are free of charge.
If your diabetes is treated with tablets, you are not always sent the Diabetic 1 form. In general, you will be issued with a full driving licence, providing that you do not have any other medical condition that might prevent this. There is a charge for renewing this licence after the age of 70. This is the same as for anyone else in the UK who does not have diabetes.
You should not drive if you;
Have difficulty recognising the early signs of hypoglycaemia.
Have problems with your eyesight, which are not corrected with glasses.
Have numbness or weakness in your limbs.
Have been drinking alcohol.
If you are unsure about any of these you can talk to your diabetes team for more advice.
Try to avoid low blood sugars while driving by:
Always carry carbohydrate (sugary) food in your car.
Not driving for more than 2 hours without eating a snack.
Not missing, or delaying, a meal or snack.
Checking your blood sugar levels before and during your car journey.
Carrying identification both on yourself and in your car – you should identify that you have diabetes
If you feel a hypo while driving
STOP driving as soon as it is safe to do so
Remove the ignition key and move into the passenger seat. This is to avoid any suggestion that you may be “under the influence of drugs” whilst in charge of a car.
IMMEDIATELY take glucose tablets, a sugary drink or sweets.
Follow this by taking a longer acting carbohydrate e.g. biscuits or crisps.
Check your blood sugar.
Do not resume driving for 40 minutes after blood sugar is above 4mmols
If you have an accident whilst you are hypoglycaemic, you should get legal advice and the support of your diabetes care team.
Driving for your work
Local councils issue licences for taxis and minicabs. Their policies may vary throughout the UK and it is best to check with individual councils for further information.
If your diabetes is treated with diet or diet and tablets, you may hold a licence to drive either a large good vehicle (LGV) or a passenger-carrying vehicle (PCV). If your diabetes is treated with insulin, you will be unable to hold either and LGV or a PCV licence. If your diabetes is treated with insulin, you will automatically lose the entitlement to drive vehicles within the C1/C1+E class. This includes vehicles between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes with a trailer, up to a combined weight of 8.25 tonnes. However, you may apply to be assessed individually for fitness to drive these vehicles.
If you are new to insulin you will not be able to make this application until your diabetes has been stabilised for one month. The Government has committed to undertaking a research programme that will examine the risks of driving and diabetes.
This will take 2-3 years to complete and may result in changes to the current legislation.
For your car insurance to be valid, you must inform your insurance company as soon as you develop diabetes. This is required whether your diabetes is controlled by diet, tablets or insulin.
Some companies may refuse cover, impose special terms or charge an increased premium if their statistics show that drivers with diabetes are at higher risk. If this happens, it is worth challenging your insurer, especially if your diabetes is stable and well controlled. It is always worth shopping around for quotes from a number of insurers, as there can be a big difference in premiums.
Although these insurers are very sympathetic to people with diabetes, they cannot be guaranteed to be the cheapest in every case.