Driving With Diabetes

As we noted here at Diabetes Flashpoints last year, people with diabetes face a variety of restrictions and prohibitions for certain jobs and activities, including military service, commercial driving, and piloting airplanes. Some guidelines — such as those governing eligibility to drive a school bus — vary from state to state, with some states declaring people with insulin-treated diabetes ineligible and others evaluating people with diabetes on a case-by-case basis.

In a new policy statement, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) notes that there is also variety in how people with diabetes are treated when it comes to private, noncommercial driving. Some states ask on license applications whether the applicant has any medical condition that may interfere with his ability to drive, while 23 ask flat-out whether the person has diabetes. If the answer is yes, most states require a doctor’s certification that the individual’s health condition does not pose a threat to driving safely. The ADA recommends that states determine fitness to drive based on individual rather than group criteria; for example, whether someone experiences frequent hypoglycemia rather than whether someone takes insulin.


As an article on the ADA’s statement at DiabetesInControl.com notes, previous studies suggest that people with diabetes are between 12% and 19% more likely to be involved in a car accident than members of the general driving population. Other groups of people, however, have a much higher accident rate: Those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) experience about four times as many accidents as the general driving population, while a 16-year-old male is about 42 times as likely to be in an accident as a 35- to 45-year-old female. Given these statistics, it seems irrational to single out diabetes for special treatment when it comes to driving.

Yet there are undoubtedly some people with diabetes whose condition makes them unfit to drive, some of whom — since people with diabetes are, after all, only human — do not realize or refuse to accept that this is the case. One way to address this issue could be to require all doctors to report health problems that may interfere with driving to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The ADA recommends against this approach, however, since mandatory reporting might discourage patients from discussing problems with their doctors, lest they lose their driver’s licenses.

What do you think — should all people be evaluated on an individual basis when determining fitness to drive, or is it acceptable to single out certain health conditions? Should a medical examination be part of getting or renewing a driver’s license for everyone, or for certain individuals? Should a history of hypoglycemia disqualify someone from driving? Under what circumstances would you voluntarily give up your driver’s license? Would better public transportation make the decision not to drive easier? Leave a comment below!

  • Diane

    I would take my chances anyday with a diabetic driving against a drunk or doped up driver. Until we put a box on the driver’s license that says I’m a drunk or I am on dope I can’t see why we should do it for diabetics. I always check my glucose level before I drive. Does a drunk or doper check theirs?

  • Becky

    I agree with Diane. I manage my diabetes very carefully and if I feel low, I check and eat before I drive. I have never had a problem while driving. I always carry food with me so I will be prepared if my blood sugar gets low and I need to pull over and eat something. It is all part of being responsible for my own actions.

  • DonM

    Ditto on Diane’s comment. If you’re unfit to drive, then… you’re unfit to drive. Being diabetic doesn’t mean you’re unfit for ANYthing. Not to get off on a rant, but the treatment of diabetics as some kind of unified group of misfits is just about as offensive to me as making general statements about black people. Please PLEASE, we are INDIVIDUALS!

  • Jean Polk

    CDL holders already have to take a physical every 1-2 years to be eligible to drive. I think if your A1C is good, and you can prove it, by showing your test results to the examiner, you should be eligible to drive CMV, even if you are on insulin, which is hard to get a dispensation on currently. After all the ADA wants people on insulin quicker now to get their diabetes controlled better. I’d rather share the road with a diabetic whose sugar is controlled by whichever medicines are needed than someone with sleep apnea that isn’t getting treatment! (which is common out here on the roads)

  • jim snell

    Thanks to DonM. Take this crap and shove it.

    I agree with him.

    Lets move on here and now.

  • Mae

    This is discrimination plain and simple. Do heart patients have restrictions? ADD patients? Depressed patients? I mean, really? Absurd. It’s pretty much the drunk drivers, the texters, those on phones, etc. that cause distracted driving accidents. So why discriminate against those with diabetes?

  • jim snell

    I believe that the ADA can do a better job helping type 2 diabetes in a far better way than interfering here.

    I find this disgraceful interfereing.

    Get the rot stopped and better advice for type 2 and far cheaper test strips and tools would be a great first place to start and stop the exploding numbers.

  • Jean Leonard

    I am an insulin dependent diabetic and have been since July of 1999, but I work very hard every single day to keep my blood sugar under control — my A1C is currently 5.7!!! I agree that it would be unfair to label diabetics as a group — we’re no different than someone who has other diseases such as sleep apnea, high blood pressure, etc. that they are not receiving treatment for. The only difference is that we are aware of our condition and work diligently to control it!

  • Kathy

    I think driving or not driving should be taken on a case by case basis. Just having diabetes should not be grounds for not allowing a person to drive. One has to look at the situation indivitually. If one is having a lot of lows where one is passing out all the time, clearly that person should not be driving. The issue is safety and not diabetes itself. I always check before I drive and I carry food items in my car that will raise BG quickly if I need to do so.
    Of course whether it be diabetes or some other condition, it is up to us to take the steps to ensure our own safety and ability to drive.
    For years, Deaf people were not allowed to drive because it was thought one needed to hear to drive but it has been proven that the ability to hear is not necessary to drive and in fact it has been proven that historically Deaf in general are better drivers than Hearing people. Does that mean that all Deaf are good drivers, no it doesn’t, but it does prove that being allowed to drive should be taken on a case by case basis. I have found that Deaf are more quickly to give up driving on their own than others because our safety is important to us. I would think it should be the same for others.

  • jim snell

    This is a matter for DMV and state and not issue for ADA to be butting in with its big government buddies.

    Stick to the nitting and help diabetics get better.

  • olliver

    How often is too often as far as the passing out goes ?And if this person needs to drive around a school every day should that be a factor ? Passed out six times within a year .As far as drunks go if they are caught driving drunk there are severe consequences now and 3rd DUI jail time .I don’t know if this person doesn’t know when fainting spell is coming on or just ignores the signs .One time just exited her car.

  • RE

    The NAZIs had a program they called their “T6″ program.

    They started by registering all diabetics, epileptics, asthmatics, etc.

    Then they took away their occupational licenses (like commercial drivers licenses.)

    Finally, they put them in concentration camps, and killed them.

    “Those who do no learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.”