Road-Worthy Blood Sugars
Safe Driving with Diabetes
By Gregg Laskoski
Safe driving is all about people and vehicles moving uniformly at intervals in predictable directions at predictable speeds. Throw in just one driver with diabetes who is experiencing a low blood sugar episode (hypoglycemia) and you've got a formula for chaos and tragedy. Driving with diabetes is nothing to take lightly.
I live in Spring Hill, FL and work in Tampa, about 40 miles south. I have diabetes. I work for AAA Auto Club South in Public Relations, and, ironically enough, I am often communicating about a broad range of things that AAA is known for, such as driver and passenger safety; gasoline price trends; consumer tips on fuel conservation; and, automotive and air travel issues.
One day a few years ago I left the office; stopped briefly to chat with a co-worker about baseball; got in my car and headed for home. I felt fine when I first got into my car. But shortly after while I was driving north on the Suncoast Parkway (where the speed limit is 70 mph) I apparently had a rapid drop in my blood glucose (BG) level and was experiencing a severe hypoglycemic event.
The only thing I can recall is that I had double-vision and felt disoriented. I was not thinking clearly. Somehow I managed to call my wife on my cell phone and all I could tell her was that I did not know where I was. I know she was trying desperately to help me but I was not able to react or process whatever she was telling me. I managed to drive the car off the parkway; I took an exit but did not know which one and did not recognize my surroundings. It was only by the grace of God that I was able to bring the vehicle to a safe stop. I waited there. My wife had called a friend of ours who helped look for me and she also called 911 for emergency help and gave them my license plate number. (To this day I have no idea how they found me as quickly as they did!) The EMTs who arrived had me eat a tube of fast-acting glucose gel and it was not long before I was soon feeling like I was back to normal. I was extremely fortunate that this episode ended safely.
In hindsight, I have to think that the fact that I got home in one piece that night was a small miracle.
Ever since then, I will never get behind the wheel of a car, not even to run a quick errand without knowing what my blood glucose is first. More importantly, for my own peace of mind and for my wife's too, I keep glucose tablets made with fast-acting glucose on me at all times; because the speed at which they work is critical. I have them in the glove box of my car; in my briefcase, and at home in a kitchen cabinet. My wife has a container of them in her car too!
Fast and easy accessibility is critical. As an insulin-dependent diabetic for the past 15 years, I've learned that not all sugar sources are the same and, clearly, they don't all work equally. Glucose products made with D-glucose - found under many store brand labels like Dex4, CVS, Walgreens, Leader and Rite Aid - are the fastest because they don't have to be metabolized by the body to start working. In addition, they don't have fat or fiber, which slows down glucose delivery when I need it most.
I can tell you that of the many types of fast-acting glucose product formats available (tablets, gels, liquids), for me when it comes to driving with diabetes, glucose tablets are not only the best source of sugar to correct a low BG; they are the most practical. Any Floridian who's left a can of Coke, a roll of Lifesavers, or a Three Musketeers bar in their car knows what I'm talking about. Obviously, the candy melts and hot soda is undrinkable. And, even if the Coke was cold and the candy wasn't a melting mess, how much should you consume…?
Fortunately, the glucose tablets do not melt and can withstand extreme temperatures. They always work and that's what I have to be able to rely on.
The best thing about glucose tablets is that they afford me consistency. I can be prepared and proactive and know how many tablets I should consume in order to increase to a predictable and optimum BG level. For me, that's peace of mind.
Gregg Laskoski is managing director of public relations for AAA Auto Club South headquartered in Tampa. He was diagnosed with diabetes and has been insulin-dependent since 1993.
Reviewed by Jason C. Baker, MD 08/11
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