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Diabetes and Safe Driving


It’s the allure of freedom, the promise of the open road, the addictive sense of adventure...It’s the wind in your hair, the irresistible appeal of endless possibility.  The words “road trip” have become synonymous with freedom, adventure, and long-lasting memories, but if you’re diabetic, you know that it is necessary to take a few extra precautions before hitting the highway for your summer getaway.

DD1 Diabetic Driver StickerOn Tuesday morning, May 31, a long line of disgruntled drivers sat at a standstill on I-91 in Chicopee, Massachusetts, according to masslive.com.  The driver causing the traffic jam was found by state police slumped over at the wheel, and seemed to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  The real culprit?  Diabetic shock.

Diabetic shock, also known as hypoglycemic shock, is a sudden drop in glucose levels, according to livestrong.com.  It’s most common in insulin-dependent diabetics, but it can also be caused by intense exercise, missed meals, and illness.

When a person’s body goes into diabetic shock, they might experience anxiety, confusion, tremors, sweating, neurological impairment, cognitive dysfunction, seizures, and in some severe cases, coma and death.

The Chicopee driver was “in a stupor,” disoriented and experiencing the symptoms of hypoglycemic shock.  He was not wearing a medical alert bracelet, and police had no way of knowing about his medical condition.  He fought police as they tried to get him out of the car and was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and operation under the influence of drugs.  When he was taken to the hospital, an investigation concluded that he was having a diabetic episode and was not under the influence - but his license could still be revoked, as his medical condition is now seen as a threat to public safety.

Scenarios like this one are more common than you would think.  If you or someone you know is diabetic, take a few simple steps to prevent hypoglycemia before you pack your bags and hit the road this summer.

1. Eat small meals throughout the day, and eat snacks in between. Try to avoid long periods without eating.
2. Take any and all medications as prescribed by your doctor - don’t change dosages or skip medications without talking to your doctor first!
3. Monitor your blood sugar level often.
4. Simple carbohydrates like juice or hard candy will usually raise blood sugar levels quickly. Pack snacks in the car with you in case your blood sugar drops and you begin experiencing symptoms of hypoglycemia.
5. Alert others to your condition. Hypoglycemia is serious. It can cause (and has caused) accidents in the past. If you are at risk for diabetic shock, wear a medical ID bracelet. This will alert medical personnel that you have diabetes in the event of a car accident.  Also, consider putting a Diabetic Driver sticker or Diabetic Driver license plate frame on your car.  This will let others know to get medical help if something isn’t right, and will alert authorities to your condition in case you can’t.

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What advice do you have for safe driving with diabetes?  Please share your tips and questions in the comments section below.


This is a great article, Emily. Well done! Your words have prompted me to suggest to my in-laws that they need such a bracelet or some form of ID in their car!
Posted @ Wednesday, June 08, 2011 12:28 PM by Barbara Atkins
Thank you Barbara! It means so much to me that this article made a difference for you and your family.
Posted @ Friday, June 10, 2011 8:12 AM by Emily
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