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EU changes night-time hypos driving rules for people with diabetes

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TheDriver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)will be asked to overturn its ban on drivers with diabetes who have severe hypoglycaemia when they are asleep, due to changes to the European Commission’s driving rules.

An EU Directive introduced in 2011 means that drivers who treat their diabetes with insulin who have had two or more episodes of severe hypoglycaemia (very low blood glucose levels, also known as hypos) which required assistance from another person, within a 12-month period, must inform the DVLA and, as a result, will have their driving licence withdrawn.

DVLA does not differentiate between daytime and night-time hypos

That the DVLA does not currently differentiate between daytime and night-time episodes of hypoglycaemia means that some people with diabetes are losing their driving licence unnecessarily. Experts on driving and diabetes across Europe came together last year to review the Directive and, based on current evidence, have voted overwhelmingly for amendments.

The European Commission has responded by advising that the driving ban for people experiencing recurrent severe hypoglycaemia when asleep, be lifted. They will ask the DVLA to make the necessary legislative changes by 1 January 2018.

Having campaigned over the last five years to get the night-time hypoglycaemia ban overturned Diabetes UK warmly welcomes this move by the European Commission. The charity is now calling on the DVLA to implement necessary legislative changes as soon as possible to prevent even more people with diabetes unfairly losing their licence due to night-time episodes of hypoglycaemia. 

The changes have not yet been implemented

As these changes have not yet been implemented, drivers with diabetes should continue to comply with the law and inform the DVLA if they experience one or more episodes of severe hypoglycaemia, including when asleep, within a 12-month period, and of any changes to their condition that may affect their ability to drive.

Chris Askew, Diabetes UK Chief Executive, said: “The European Commission is absolutely right to ask the DVLA to overturn the ban on night-time hypos, and we are delighted this is happening having campaigned for five years now to get this ban lifted and put a stop to some people with diabetes losing their driving licence unfairly. Beyond the unfairness, losing their driving licence has caused people all sorts of unnecessary stress and anxiety, even in some cases leading to people losing their jobs.

“Now that the European Commission and medical experts are all in agreement that this rule needs to be changed the DVLA must act on this advice as a matter of urgency, ensuring legislative processes are in the place for the rule change to be effective by 1 January 2018.

“It is, of course, absolutely imperative that we ensure everyone on our roads is healthy and safe to drive. But this must be done in a way that is fair, and not to the detriment of drivers with diabetes who are currently unfairly penalised.”

Diabetes UK is asking people with diabetes who have lost their driving licence due to having severe hypoglycaemia when asleep to contact the charity if they would like to share their story. For further information contact the Diabetes UK policy team:policy@diabetes.org.uk.

If you have concerns or need advice about driving with diabetes please contactDiabetes UK’s Advocact team: Call 0345 123 2399 (Monday to Friday, 9am–7pm) or email advocacy@diabetes.org.uk

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