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Call to end driving discrimination for people with diabetes

Diabetes UK welcomes a new study showing that as a group people with diabetes who use insulin do not have more car accidents than those without the condition. People with diabetes are subjects to tighter regulations, and in some instances to discrimination, when it comes to being granted driving licences, as it is perceived that they could be more likely to cause accidents as they have an increased risk of hypoglycaemia.

Researchers found the rate of road traffic collisions in patients with insulin treated diabetes to be lower than those who did not have the condition when the group were considered as a whole. When the groups were stratified according to age there was no significant difference in accident rate between the two groups at any age.

Diabetes UK believes that having diabetes does not mean people should give up driving, but they do need to plan in advance before getting behind the wheel. The charity is campaigning for an end to discriminatory driving laws that affect those on insulin who drive larger vehicles and some passenger carrying vehicles.

Simon O'Neill, Diabetes UK Director of Care, Information and Advocacy, said: "As long as the diabetes is well-controlled and there are no complications that would impair someone's safety as a driver - and your doctor confirms this if asked - there is no reason why people with diabetes should not be issued with a licence. Current restrictions affect the livelihood of people with diabetes as for example they cannot become bus drivers or lorry drivers, and some might be prevented from becoming taxi drivers due to local authorities' policies.  

"Diabetes UK recommends that people with diabetes check their blood glucose levels before they get behind the wheel and regularly during the journey to avoid having a hypoglycaemic episode. They should also avoid long or stressful trips if they are tired and consult their doctor or diabetes specialist nurse if they are concerned about driving."

Diabetes UK advises that people who have just started taking insulin, have difficulty recognising the early symptoms of hypoglycaemia, have problem with their eyesight that cannot be corrected by glasses or have numbness or weakness in the limbs from neuropathy (diabetic nerve damage) should not drive.

Diabetes UK

Should people with diabetes be allowed to drive? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"As a 21 year old that has driven for near 3 years, done more miles than most my age ... I'm still somehow more of a risk because I have type 1 diabetes even though I've never had a bad hypo or anything since diagnosed at 15. I argue that yes if someone had a serious hypo/hyper attack while with a bus full of people on a busy road, is a risk, but so is everyone else that
could have a heart attack. But are we still not capable and safe enough to drive one alone? Because is driving a train not worse?" - Jamie Walvin, Blackpool

"I was diagnosed with diabetes by chance, and lost my pcv licence. The specialist asked me at the time what job I did and said there is no medical reason that I could not retain that part of my licence as control and medication are many times better than they were when the rules were first put in place" - Roy

"I work for one of the largest coach operators in the UK and I have type 1 diabetes. I agree that so long as glucose levels are monitored whilst driving and there are no other medical conditions I don't see why, based on individual assessment, type 1 diabetics are not allowed to drive buses. Perhaps to work with the government we could reduce vehicle sizes,
passenger numbers, and limit daily driving hours. I don't see why this would be such a problem, I would just like to add type 1 diabetics can drive buses in other countries such as America, Greece, Canada etc." - Robert Walmsley, Hull, East Yorkshire

"I recently lost my job as a bus driver in Ireland because I have type one diabetes, but a friend of mine with three heart stents and who still smokes is allowed to keep his job. It's just wrong - I look after my sugar levels, am in good health at 25, and I love driving my bus. I'm heartbroken." - Paul O'Dare, Ireland

"I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 2 years ago. I lost my job as a bus driver. I was devastated, not least since I was a healthy female in my early twenties with no health problems. I still am. It's disgusting that I was never given the chance to be assessed individually, and prove I was worthy of keeping my PCV licence. What made it worse was that I could have dug the graves of half the drivers at my depot at the time, based on their lifestyles. It's sad that individuals who are overweight, smoke, have suffered heart attacks, have tablet-controlled yype 2 diabetes (to note: they are still at risk of 'hypos'), older people with type 1 diabetes (1991 - by the grace of 'grandfather rights'), those aged 65 , those previously banned for drink driving/dangerous driving..the list is endless... are somehow deemed as safer drivers of heavy goods/passenger carrying vehicles. " - Abby Bellwood, Somerset