Driving & Diabetes
EDP column by Dr Ketan Dhatariya

“I have heard that the law has recently changed for those people who drive and are on insulin – what has happened?”

It used to be that people who has insulin treated diabetes could drive cars and motorcycles (group 1) as long as they checked their blood sugar levels regularly at all other times relevant to driving. It was also the case that people using insulin could not drive Light goods vehicles or a passenger carrying vehicles, such as a minibus (group 2). HGV licenses could not be held. However, due to recent change in European law, these are no longer the case. Insulin treatment is no longer a bar to people wanting to drive a minibus or light good vehicle. However, people wanting to hold such a license must see a diabetes specialist every year to ensure they do not have any reason for them not to drive. One of the main reasons to withhold their license is if they have even a single episode of where they have a blood sugar so low that they require help from someone else. That help could be asking a family member for a glass of orange juice, or it could be when someone has to dial 999.

One of the main changes to the law, however, affects group 1 license holders – cars and motorcycles. Until now, it was important to ensure that people knew when their blood sugars went too low, so that they could take some action – e.g. some sugar to get their blood sugar levels up. The law now states that if a person has had a blood sugar low enough to need the help of someone else on 2 occasions wining a 12 month period, then it is the duty of the doctor to inform that person and the DVLA that they are no longer allowed to drive for up to a year – starting from the date of the first episode. For example, if the first episode occurs in April, and the second episode happens in October, then the person will have their license revoked by the DVLA until the following April.

This is not something that has been welcomed by the UK (or, indeed most European countries) and is set to be challenged in the European courts soon. It is important that you tell your doctor whether you are having low blood sugar levels because they will adjust your medication accordingly – it is not safe to have high blood sugar levels for a long time, or to run your blood sugars too low. The law also now states that your doctor must tell the DVLA if they know that you have had blood sugar levels so low requiring help from others.

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