Driving & diabetes

Having diabetes does not mean that you need to give up driving, but it does mean that you need to plan in advance before you get behind the wheel. We have been campaigning for many years to ensure that you will be able to continue driving safely and without any unnecessary restrictions.

 

This information can help you ensure that your driving is hazard-free. If you require further information, please see the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) website (or the DVA in Northern Ireland), or call our Careline.

Group 1 driver (cars and motorbikes)

  • If you are on insulin, you must tell the DVLA (in the UK) or DVA (Northern Ireland).
  • Your licence will then be renewed every one, two, or three years.
  • Any changes to your condition or treatment which occur between renewals (e.g complications which might affect your ability to drive safely) should be reported when they happen.
  • Drivers who are under medical supervision by a doctor do not need to notify if insulin is used for a temporary period only (less than three months, or for gestational diabetes less than three months after delivery) unless they have problems with hypos/severe hypos/hypo unawareness

If you are a Group 1 driver on non-insulin medication for diabetes you do not need to notify unless:

  • You have had two episodes of severe hypoglycaemia within the last 12 months (where you were completely dependent on another person to treat your hypo)
  • You develop impaired awareness of hypoglycaemia (where you are unable to recognise the hypo when it starts)
  • You experience a disabling hypo whilst driving
  • You have other medical conditions or changes to existing medical conditions which could affect your ability to drive safely. Examples are: problems with vision (e.g. laser treatment/injections), circulation, or sensation (e.g. peripheral neuropathy).

Hypo-related problems are most likely to happen on sulphonylurea or glinide tablets. If you are unsure whether your medication could cause hypos check with your diabetes care team.

Group 2 driver (bus or lorry)

  • You must tell the DVLA if you have diabetes for which you take any type of medication.
  • If you have insulin treatment you will undergo an independent medical assessment every year. This also applies to holders of C1 licence which may previously have been included on your standard car/motorbike licence.
  • You should monitor your blood glucose levels regularly and store results on a memory meter.
  • You will need to provide three months of continuous meter readings at your assessment.
  • Any changes to your condition or treatment (e.g complications which might affect your ability to drive safely) should be reported.

Hypos and driving

The licensing agencies are trying to ensure you are safe on the road. They will be concerned if you are unable to recognise or self-treat your hypos.

If you are on insulin, check your blood glucose within two hours before getting behind the wheel and every two hours whilst driving.

The DVLA advise that if blood glucose is 5mmol/l or less you should take carbohydrate before driving. If it is less than 4mmol/l do not drive. See advice below on hypo advice for drivers.

If you hold a Group 2 licence and take non-insulin medication which may cause a hypo you should check your levels at least twice per day at times relevant to driving. The results should be recorded on the meter memory.

Driver licensing requirements for motorists with diabetes

The DVLA have produced a short video summarising the rules about driving and diabetes.

Safe driving tips

  • Avoid delaying or missing meals and snacks
  • Take breaks on long journeys
  • Always keep hypo treatments to hand in the car
  • Do not drink alcohol and drive.

Many of the accidents caused by hypoglycaemia are because drivers have continued to drive, ignoring their hypo warning signs (eg hunger, sweating, feeling faint). If you have a hypo whilst driving:

  • Stop the vehicle as soon as possible
  • Switch off the engine, remove the keys from the ignition and move from the driver’s seat
  • Take some fast-acting carbohydrate, such as glucose tablets or sweets, and some form of longer-acting carbohydrate.
  • Do not start driving until 45 minutes after blood glucose has returned normal.

If you have poor warning signs, or have frequent hypos, you should probably not be driving because of the risk to yourself and others. Discuss this with your diabetes healthcare team. If your team advise you to notify the DVLA/DVA you must do so. If you fail to do this, your doctor has an obligation to do so on your behalf.

 

Motor Insurance

When applying for motor insurance you must declare you have diabetes even if you are not asked about this. You should also inform your insurance company of any changes to your condition or treatment. Failure to do so, or failure to notify the DVLA/DVA where required, could mean you are not covered. If you feel your premium is too high it is worth challenging your insurer. Insurers can only refuse cover, or charge more if they have evidence of increased risk.

Diabetes UK Insurance Services offers motor insurance for people with diabetes.