Safe Driving & Hypoglycemia
By Carol Weber, writer, educator and communication strategist, and Riva Greenberg, diabetes patient-expert, author, speaker and Huffington Post columnist.
If you take insulin or another blood glucose-lowering medication, you are at risk for low blood sugar (less than 70 mg/dl or 3.88 mmol/l). This is called hypoglycemia and can impair your ability to drive.
Low blood sugar can cause confusion, blurred vision, disorientation, an inability to focus and make good decisions, slower response time, and even seizures and loss of consciousness.
Having low blood sugar while driving can be dangerous and can cause harm to you, your loved ones, and others in your car and on the road. Be sure to check your blood sugar before driving and during long drives, and always be prepared to correct a low.
Research shows risks of a low when driving
Although a mild low may not seem to impair your driving, studies show that many people do not accurately judge their blood glucose, or their driving ability, when they are low. One study found that nearly 45% of the time participants said they would drive, their blood sugar levels were in a range associated with declining performance. Another study found that even people with tight blood glucose control were at high risk for having traffic accidents due to low blood sugar.
Having diabetes shouldn't have to stop you from driving. But it is important — and necessary — to take some extra steps for a safer and more relaxed trip, especially if you take insulin or another blood glucose-lowering medication. A little extra planning goes a long way!
Be safe before driving — Check your blood sugar
- Check your blood sugar before you get behind the wheel. Make sure it's in a safe range (above 100 mg/dl or 5.55 mmol/l) or the range recommended by your healthcare professional.
- If your blood sugar is near or below 70 mg/dl (3.88 mmol/l), correct it to bring it back within normal range. See How to Treat a Low. And be prepared to correct a low by always carrying a glucose product with you — tablets, liquid, or gel.
- If you'll be driving for several hours, bring a snack with you like a granola bar, some crackers and cheese, or a small sandwich.
- Wear or carry medical identification that says you have diabetes. In case of emergency, the identification will let others know that you need treatment and are not intoxicated from drinking alcohol.
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