Stay safe while you drive — Always be prepared to correct a low
There are important steps you can take to prepare and care for a low if it happens when you are behind the wheel:
- Keep fast-acting carbohydrate in your car and any vehicle you use. Glucose tablets work well because they will not spoil, don't need refrigeration, and won't be damaged by hot and cold temperatures. Don't assume you'll be able to find a glucose product or other carbohydrate nearby. You may need it long before you find a convenience store, exit, or rest area.
- Store your glucose in a place that's easy to reach like your glove compartment, never in your trunk. Also, bring your meter, test strips, and other diabetes supplies with you in whatever you carry to work each day or take with you when you travel. Be sure they're in a place that's easy to get to and easy to remember. You may not be thinking clearly if your blood sugar is low.
- If you feel you're going low, pull over as soon as it is safe to do so. Follow the steps for correcting a low. If you think you're having a low and don't have your meter, correct it as a low. It's safer to have your blood sugar be high for a short time than for it to continue to go low while driving. Do not drive until your blood sugar is above 100mg/dl (5.55 mmol/l) or in your target range, even if it means you'll arrive late.
- Resume driving after you've corrected your blood sugar and feel well enough to continue.
- If you'll be driving more than another hour, have a snack to keep your blood sugar in your normal range. It's best to have a snack or meal that has protein in it.
- Keep in mind, alcohol lowers blood sugar and impairs your judgment. Never drink and drive.
Whenever driving long distances, check your blood sugar periodically. If you do not feel the symptoms of hypoglycemia (this is called hypoglycemia unawareness), you may need to check more often, or talk with your healthcare professional about how often to check.
AMA Patient Page, Safe Driving For People With Diabetes, August 25, 1999.
PLoS Medicine, Vehicle Crashes in Diabetes Patients, December 2009, Volume 6 Issue 12.
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I have a friend, M, who has diabetes and never, ever tests her bloodsugar before she gets behind the wheel. This has always worried me about her. On Wednesday, she had a bad accident after passing out behind the wheel. She hit another car head on. I thank the universe that no one was killed, but she and the driver of the other vehicle were both badly injured. She's got a long healing road ahead of her, as does the woman she hit. I was talking about the...