December 21, 2011

Driving Isn’t an Issue for Most Diabetics


People with diabetes are held to a higher standard in our preparedness for mundane things most people take for granted. Driving is essential to independence and capability in many facets of  life. So how do you know when driving with diabetes isn’t safe for you?

In the January 2012 issue of Diabetes Care, a new position statement, “Driving and Diabetes,” has been added. The  American Diabetes Association says, “Diabetes needn’t prevent someone from driving, and only a doctor should decide if complications are severe enough to keep an individual off the road.”

 The director of endocrinology at the New York Hospital Queens in New York City had wise words to share on the concerns voiced about licensing people with diabetes to drive. “There have been inappropriate pushes to try to restrict driving licensure for people with diabetes, and we were concerned that these recommendations were coming from people who didn’t really know diabetes, and were unnecessarily restrictive”.

 Dr. Lorber assures that the vast majority of people with diabetes drive safely. The current standard for driving and diabetes vary from state to state. The ADA would prefer to see a standardized way to assess driving safety.

An analysis of 15 studies on people with diabetes who drive showed that people with diabetes have between a 12%- 19% increased risk of a motor vehicle accident compared to the general driving population.

 That’s interesting considering a 16-year-old boy has a 42 times higher risk of getting into a car accident than a 35- to 45-year-old woman. There’s more interesting statistics in this higher risk driving situations. People with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have about four times the car accident risk of the general public, while those with sleep apnea are about 2.4 times more likely to crash. These numbers are sobering. In some capacity – it’s like almost everyone should be limited from driving a motor vehicle. You catch the sarcasm here?

I love the statement from Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the clinical diabetes center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.  He said, “patients with type 1 diabetes are really normal these days. There’s no reason to restrict their driving ability,”  I truly appreciate his testament supporting people with type 1 diabetes and their normalcy. It is 100% true what he said. We do have more technology to help us manage diabetes and avoid hypoglycemia. Now if we could get Merck to shake a tail feather on Smart Insulin.

The new ADA position statement should in no way discourage patients from discussing these issues with their doctor. For this reason, the ADA does not recommend mandatory reporting to state licensing agencies if a driver is not safe to drive.

The reasonable advice from Dr. Lorber is, “know what your sugar is before you start to drive, and don’t drive if you’re below 70 mg/dL.”. Sounds a lot like know your limit.

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