As soon as you’re old enough, you’ll probably be keen to start driving and if you manage your diabetes responsibly there’s no reason why diabetes should stop you. As long as you play it safe, research shows that people with diabetes don’t have more car accidents than anyone else.
Extra things you need to think about
Applying for a licence
When you apply for a licence you must tell the traffic authority in your state that you have type 1 diabetes. Each State and Territory has its own regulations regarding the allocation of licences to people with diabetes, but it’s likely that you’ll need a doctors report stating that your diabetes is well managed. You’ll probably need a new letter from your doctor every two years. Your doctor will want to support you to get your licence and renewals, but remember that they are only able to do so, if you are making an effort to care for your diabetes.
Hypos (low BGLs) are the major risk for anyone driving who has diabetes. It’s really important that you have a good knowledge about hypos – your symptoms, treatment and prevention. You always need to check your blood glucose level (BGL) before getting in the car and to have hypo treatment at hand.
If your BGL is low before you drive, treat the hypo and wait until your BGL has come back up and you’re feeling better. If you have a hypo while you’re driving, pull over immediately and check your BGL. Don’t think “I’ll stop later” – it might be too late. Driving while having a hypo can slow your reaction time and put you, your passengers, other drivers and pedestrians in danger.
If you have hypo unawareness (that is, you don’t feel your hypos coming on) it’s important that you discuss this with your doctor, as driving in this situation is very dangerous.
Alcohol and drugs
Driving, alcohol and drugs are not a good mix and are illegal. Alcohol and drugs can make you feel overconfident which can make you take risks and be more prone to an accident. Like a hypo, alcohol and drugs can also slow your reaction time while driving.
If you plan on drinking or taking drugs, don’t drive – organise a designated driver or another way to get home. Remember, if you’ve got type 1 diabetes you’re also at increased risk of delayed hypos from alcohol. If you’ve had a big night keep this in mind before you get in the car the next day.
Complications such as those affecting the eyes or feet can impact on your ability to drive safely. If you have any diabetes related complications, discuss this with your doctor before you drive.
For further information on driving and type 1 diabetes visit: www.austroads.com.au