In the Driver’s Seat: Managing Hypoglycemia When Driving
Special challenges arise when driving with diabetes
For people with type 1 diabetes, and some with type 2, driving requires extra care. Unexpected hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can cause you to feel dizzy, shaky, or disoriented. Fortunately, there are ways to manage your diabetes so that you can enjoy the freedom driving can bring.
Planning helps everyone with diabetes
Whether you’re a person with type 1 diabetes who has managed it for years or if you are newly diagnosed, you should have a plan for dealing with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) when you’re driving. This means talking with your healthcare team about what kind of special precautions you should take.
People with Type 2 diabetes are also at risk
Concerns about hypoglycemic reactions while driving aren’t relegated to people with type 1 diabetes—those with type 2 diabetes who take sulfonylureas including glyburide and glipizide are also at risk. That’s because this class of oral medications works to increase the secretion of insulin from the pancreas. If you’re not sure whether you take any of these medications, ask your healthcare team.
Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, knowing what to do about your blood glucose (sugar) when you are driving is essential in order to avoid dangerous situations for both yourself, and other drivers on the road.
- Know before you go. Test your blood sugar every time you get behind the wheel. If your blood glucose is under 80, treat it with fifteen grams of carbohydrate, like a small juice box or snack bar. If your blood sugar is normal and you feel fine, you’re good to go.
- Stay in tune with your body. If you start to feel confused or shaky, pull over immediately and test your blood sugar. Treat low blood sugar using the 15/15 rule—fifteen grams of carbohydrate, and testing fifteen minutes later. Do not start driving until your symptoms have gone away.
- Stock your car with (healthy) snacks. Always keep a supply of fast-acting snacks in your car. Juice boxes, snack bars—anything that you can grab when you have an episode of hypoglycemia.
- Wear a medical bracelet. Anything that identifies you as a person with diabetes-- whether it is a necklace, bracelet, or otherwise—is absolutely essential in case there is an emergency.
- Protect your glucose meter. If you have a separate glucose meter for monitoring your glucose while driving, remember to take it out of the car when it is either very cold or hot—extreme temperatures damage your meter, and decrease its ability to give accurate glucose readings.
Page last updated: December 10, 2013