Driving and diabetes

If you have diabetes there are some important facts that you need to know about driving.

  1. You must Notify VicRoads that you have diabetes if you require insulin or medication to manage it.
  2. Precautions you should take if you have diabetes.
  3. Carry hypo treatment with you all the time if you are on insulin or medication that can potentially cause hypos.

For detailed information visit the VicRoads website

Driving a motor vehicle is a complex task involving perception, appropriate judgement, adequate response time and reasonable physical capability. For people with diabetes, the ability to drive safely can be affected by:

  • Hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose level)
  • Hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose level)
  • Impaired vision from retinopathy or associated with, high and low blood glucose levels
  • Numb feet or hands (neuropathy)

Hypoglycaemia

Driving skills can be impaired when the blood glucose level is less than 5mmol/L. Insulin and some diabetes medications (sulphonylureas) can cause hypoglycaemia. Early symptoms of hypoglycaemia include shaking, sweating, dizziness, palpitations, hunger and irritability.

However, some people have hypoglycaemia without any warning signs. This is called Impaired awareness of hypoglycaemia  and this can be very dangerous as the person does not realise their concentration is affected and their reaction time is slower. They can also lose consciousness without warning. A blood glucose level that is less than 4 mmol/L, is hypoglycaemia, even if you don’t have symptoms.

Driving while hypoglycaemic has resulted in traffic accidents, road deaths and near misses. People who experience severe impaired awareness of hypoglycaemia may have their license suspended under medical advice.

If you have a major hypo (become unconscious or fit) you should not drive until you have discussed this with your doctor or specialist.

Precautions when driving

If you take insulin or medications that can cause hypoglycaemia (hypo):

  • Check your blood glucose level before driving. Don’t drive unless over 5 mmol/L
  • Take your meter, hypo treatment (e.g. jelly beans) and carbohydrate snacks with you, even on short trips
  • If you have a hypo whilst driving, pull over and turn off the car. Do not drive again until your blood glucose level returns to normal and you feel better
  • On long trips, plan regular stops for blood glucose testing and snack breaks
  • Wear identification that states your name, doctor and diabetes treatment
  • If you think you have hypo unawareness speak to your doctor or diabetes educator to take steps to regain your awareness again.

Austroads Guidelines ammended in March 2013

In March 2012, Austroads and the National Transport Commission released their updated 'Assessing Fitness to Drive: Medical standards for licensing and clinical management guidelines'.

There had been continuing concern, confusion and distress experienced by many people with diabetes in Australia. The issue of concern was the inclusion and interpretation of a new Medical Standard for Licensing, which created the potential for any person with diabetes and a HbA1c level of greater than 9.0% to be classified as not eligible for a conditional licence without a medical review.

Diabetes Australia is pleased to announce that in response to advocacy action, the Transport and Infrastructure Senior Officials' Committee (TISOC) approved changes to Assessing Fitness to Drive, March 2012 at their meeting in March 2013. The changes clarify the section that provides guidance on what the satisfactory control of diabetes means for driver licensing purposes.

Further information about these changes can be accessed on the Austroads website.

The updated version of Assessing Fitness to Drive for commercial and private vehicle drivers is now available for download from the Austroads website.

From 21 March 2013 hardcopy orders will have the updated pages inserted.

Notifying Vicroads

If you hold a current learner permit or driver licence, you are required by law to notify VicRoads if you have any serious or chronic medical condition or disability which may affect your fitness to drive. This includes diabetes, whether it is controlled by insulin or medication. Failure to notify could also affect your insurance cover.
To retain your licence you must provide a medical report to VicRoads.VicRoads determines your fitness to drive on a case by case basis in accordance with national medical standards. Medical advice and assessment outcomes are also considered.

Standards for commercial truck, taxi and bus licences are stricter than those for private licences.

VicRoads and The Victorian Older Drivers' Handbook

Those who manage their type 2 diabetes with diet and physical activity alone now do not have to report their health condition to VicRoads medical review. Refer to The Victorian Older Drivers’ Handbook produced by VicRoads released in October 2012. Copies of this booklet can be ordered from the Victorian Government Bookshop by calling 1300 366 356 or viewed on the VicRoads website.

Information and Resources

For advocacy and driving matters contact DA–Vic (03) 9667 1701

Diabetes and Driving - Above 5 to Drive Consumer Booklet. Copies of this booklet can also be ordered online.

Diabetes Australia's position statement on Austroads Assesssing Fitness to Drive guidelines

Driving and recent severe hypoglycaemia Flyer

Copies of VicRoads ‘Diabetes and Driving’ brochure' can be ordered from the Victorian Government Bookshop by calling 1300 366 356 or from the DA–Vic publications page.

Further information can be obtained from the VicRoads Medical Review Section Staff by calling (03) 9854 2407 or 131171 (general enquiries).