How Diabetes UK is getting drivers with diabetes back on the road
Steph Brunton’s life has been turned upside down after two severe hypos when she was asleep led her to losing her driving licence.
“I was devastated. It was on a par with receiving my diagnosis of cancer,” says Steph, who has had Type 1 diabetes since she was two.
“I'd been working as a Community Staff Nurse and losing my licence made my job impossible. I'm unable to complete shifts and it means I have very little income.”
Steph had been a victim of the EU and Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency’s (DVLA) rule to not distinguish between hypos that happen when you are awake - and those that occur during sleep.
Anyone suffering two severe hypos – meaning they need someone else’s assistance to treat them – in 12 months loses their licence.
Angry and bewildered by the DVLA’s decision, Steph called the Diabetes UK Helpline for advice in February 2016.“Lesley from the Helpline team dealt with the DVLA directly on my behalf to discuss my case and get answers to some of the questions that were not clear in the information they had sent me.“She was also able to advise me that the ban would last until 12 months after the first hypo, not the second, something the DVLA had failed to mention. Leslie’s help means I will get my licence back sooner.”
Steph was not the first person with diabetes to lose her licence because of the night-time hypo rule and even before it came into force back in 2011, Diabetes UK argued there was no basis in law or medical evidence for the rule.
Led by Policy Manger, Nikki Joule, Diabetes UK campaigned relentlessly for a change to this rule and an end to people with diabetes needlessly losing their driving licence.
Finally, in 2015 experts on driving and diabetes across Europe agreed to review driving laws and overwhelmingly voted against countries banning drivers because of night-time hypos.
Steph says, “The new DVLA rules will make a huge difference to me. I would never have had my licence revoked or had to deal with the life-changing consequences of not being able to drive.”
However, the new driving rules for people with diabetes are only due to be introduced in January 2018. Diabetes UK would like to see the new rules come in sooner, and Steph agrees.
“I definitely think the new rules should be put in place immediately. It will help prevent some of the catastrophic effects that revoking a person’s licence can have, such as the loss of employment and the risk of losing their home. If left until 2018, there will be many more people affected.”
The Diabetes UK Helpline provides support with practical difficulties, like Steph’s, but is also there to talk things through and explore emotional, social or psychological issues.
I think the new rules should be put in place immediately. It will help prevent some of the catastrophic effects that revoking a person’s licence can have.