Driving

Diabetes and Driving

Car Insurance

Visual Standards

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)

Acknowledgement

Diabetes and Driving

Patients who are treated with insulin or tablets (particularly sulphonylureas or glitazones) the main potential danger of diabetes and driving is the possibility of hypoglycaemia (a hypo). In order to avoid hypoglycaemia, people affected by diabetes are advised:

  • To always carry fast acting carbohydrate food in the car, e.g. glucose tablets or lucozade (full strength).
  • Not to drive for more than 2 hours without eating a snack.
  • Not to miss or delay a meal or snack.
  • To check blood glucose before and during a journey.
  • To carry identification and information on their usual diabetes treatment.

If symptoms of hypoglycaemia occur, you are advised:

  • To stop driving as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • To immediately take a glucose drink or glucose tablets and follow this by taking a longer acting carbohydrate, e.g. a digestive biscuit.
  • To remove the ignition key and move into the passenger seat to avoid any suggestion that you are in charge of the car.
  • Not to drive for 40 minutes after blood sugars have been corrected; studies have shown that cognitive function does not recover fully until this time.

Diabetic drivers should know that if they have an accident attributable to hypoglycaemia they render themselves liable to the charge of driving under the influence of drugs.
You should also abstain completely from alcohol when driving.

back to top

Car Insurance

Diabetes must be disclosed either at the start of a new policy or at the time of diagnosis.
For car insurance to be valid, the patient must inform their insurance company as soon as they develop diabetes. This is required whether patients are treated with a diet only, tablets or insulin. It is always worth shopping around for quotes from a number of insurers, as there can be a big difference in premiums. Some companies may refuse cover, impose special terms or an increased premium if their statistics show drivers with diabetes to be at a higher risk. If this happens, challenge the insurer, especially if your diabetes is well controlled.

Diabetes UK services have a motor insurance quote line on Freephone 0800 731431. Although these insurers are very sympathetic to people with diabetes, they cannot be guaranteed to be the cheapest in every case.

back to top


Visual Standards

Visual standards relating to driving are those applied generally. You should be able to read a number plate (7.9cm) at a distance of 20.5 metres and have a visual field of at least 120 in the horizontal axis and at least 20 in the vertical axis. This approximates to an equivalent Snellen Chart corrected acuity of 6/12. If in doubt, refer to the Ophthalmology Clinic requesting formal assessment.

Driving after Installation of Tropicamide Drops:

  • Patients should be advised not to drive for a minimum of 4 hours afterwards; due to a reduction in visual acuity following pupillary dilatation. This advice applies regardless of weather conditions and sunglasses will not improve the situation.

back to top

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)

  • It is your legal responsibility to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) of a diagnosis of diabetes when it is treated with insulin or oral hypoglycaemic agents (DVLA Medical Fitness To Drive Declaration Form).
  • The DVLA need not be informed if treatment is with diet alone but they must be informed if any hypoglycaemia treatment is started or there is a change from OHAs to insulin.
  • Patients treated with insulin will be sent a Diabetic 1 form which will ask for further details including the name of the patients GP or hospital physician and for consent to approach that doctor directly if necessary.
  • For insulin treated patients, a license for 1,2 or 3 years will be issued, which allows the patient to drive a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes. When the licence expires the patient will receive a reminder to renew the licence and may also be sent another Diabetic 1 form to complete with more up-to-date information. Renewals will be free of charge.
  • For patients treated with OHA's or diet, a full "until 70" licence will be issued providing there are no other medical conditions which might prevent this.
  • Patients must inform the DVLA if any problems or diabetic complications develop which may affect the safety of driving.

Contact address and telephone number:

Medical Adviser
Drivers Medical Unit
DVLA
Longview Road
Swansea SA99 1TU
Telephone 0870 6000301

Large Goods Vehicles and Passenger Carrying Vehicles

  • Since April 1991 it has been against the law to issue a Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) or Passenger Carrying Vehicle (PCV) licence to patients treated with insulin. A person with a LGV or PCV license will have their license withdrawn if they progress to treatment with insulin.
  • The only exception is patients who had type 1 diabetes and were issued with such a licence before April 1991 when the law changed. These cases are dealt with individually and licenses can be re issued annually subject to a satisfactory medical review.
  • A LGV or PCV license can be held by patients treated by diet or OHAs providing there are no visual or medical problems.

Lighter Goods/Smaller Passenger Vehicles

In January 1998 the second EU driver licensing directive came into force in the UK. Insulin treated diabetic drivers lost their entitlement to drive lighter goods and smaller passenger carrying vehicles. This includes vehicles in the C1 category (between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes) or C1+E (7.5 tonnes with trailer) subject to an annual medical examination. If they are new to insulin they will not be able to make this application until their diabetes has been stabilised for one month.

Applying for a C1/C1+E Licence

In order to apply for this licence, the patient must ensure that they meet the following qualifying conditions

  • No episodes of hypoglycaemia which have required assistance whilst driving within the last 12 months. The patient must undertake to regularly monitor their blood glucose levels at least twice a day and at times relevant to their driving. If their application is successful, then they will need to continue to monitor in this way, particularly at times relevant to driving C1/C1+E vehicles.
  • Every 12 months the patient will need to arrange to be examined by a hospital consultant who specialises in diabetes. At the time of this examination, the consultant will need to review the patient's blood glucose records for the previous 3-month period.
  • The patient must have no other medical condition, which would bar them from driving these vehicles.
  • If you are unsure whether or not you are able to apply for this licence, contact the DVLA directly 0870 600 0301 (Monday to Friday, 8.15am to 4.30pm)
  • The bar to driving vehicles in these categories covers only vocational (commercial) drivers and does not extend to individuals driving on a voluntary basis.

Taxi Licence

  • Local councils issue licences for taxis and minicabs. Their policies may vary throughout the UK and it is best to check with individual councils for further information.

Gestational Diabetes

A patient must notify the DVLA if insulin has been commenced during their pregnancy, no change will be made to their licence unless the patient remains on insulin six weeks after delivery, the patient must contact the DVLA again to inform of this. If the post-natal OGTT is positive, the patient should inform the insurance company and/or DVLA as above.

back to top


Acknowledgement

The content for this webpage is adapted from the Tayside diabetes network patient information leaflet on driving.

back to top

Quick Links

Diabetes UK

Tayside Diabetes - Driving

Web Page Author:

Sr Anne Boal

(Diabetes Nurse Specialist - Southern General Hospital)

Last Revised:

July 2006