Charity says rules for diabetic drivers unfair

According to new research in Britain drivers with diabetes do not present any extra risk on the road and diabetics have no more car accidents than those without the condition.

In many countries restrictions on people with diabetes who drive are tighter than for others, but this latest research shows that diabetics who use insulin have no more car accidents than those without the condition.

In the past experts have suggested that the potential for complications, such as fainting, means people with diabetes pose a greater risk on the roads.

But now research by the charity Diabetes UK suggests tighter driving licence restrictions for people with diabetes may be unfair as they often affect the livelihood of people with diabetes.

Diabetes UK says because some people with diabetes fail to control their blood sugar levels and develop a condition known as hypoglycaemia, which causes confusion, and loss of consciousness, all diabetics face tighter restrictions on driving larger vehicles and some passenger carrying vehicles.

A team of researchers at Plymouth's Peninsula Medical School, found the rate of road traffic collisions in patients with insulin treated diabetes was lower - at 957 accidents per 100,000 people - than those who did not have the condition (1,469/100,000).

The findings were based on an analysis of police database information on road traffic collisions and the team say there was no significant difference in accident rate between the two groups at any specific age.

Dr. Kathryn Lonnen who led the study says they wanted to explore the assumption that people with insulin-treated diabetes might be more likely to cause road traffic accidents because they have an increased risk of hypoglycaemia and she says this was found to not be the case.

Dr. Lonnen says while it is still essential to have individual risk based assessment for people with diabetes, insulin treated or not, the restrictions are damaging.

Diabetes UK, says current restrictions affect the livelihood of people with diabetes because they cannot become bus drivers or lorry drivers and some might be prevented from becoming taxi drivers due to local authorities' policies.

The charity recommends that people with diabetes check their blood glucose levels before driving and regularly during long journeys to avoid having a hypoglycaemic episode and to also avoid long or stressful trips if they are tired.

However, the charity advises that people who have just started taking insulin, have difficulty recognising the early symptoms of hypoglycaemia, have a 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.

People with diabetes that is treated with insulin must, by law, inform the licensing authorities as soon as it is diagnosed - the same rule applies in Australia where it is mandatory to disclose any medical condition which might affect a person's driving skills.

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