Some Diabetics Drive When Blood Sugar Is Dangerously Low
Results showed that the people studied stated they would drive 43-44% of the time when they estimated their blood sugar at 60-70 mg/dL, and 38-47% of the time when their actual blood sugar was <40 mg/dL. Approximately 50% of drivers in each group decided to drive at least 50% of the time when their blood sugar level was <70 mg/dL. "There are a variety of reasons that people might drive a car even though they recognize that their glucose is low," says Clarke. "Those can be environmental or social factors, such as a need to pick up children, not having rapid-acting sugar available in the car, or previous experience with low blood sugar -- in much the way that people recognize that maybe they can drive the car when they have had two drinks and still do OK. I think that is [fine] when you don't stress the system, but what happens when a kid runs out in front of you? Your processing of an emergency situation is probably at a level [that prevents you from] respond[ing] appropriately."
Margaret Himelfarb, a board member of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International and the mother of a son with diabetes, adds two more reasons: the fact that people with low blood sugar have some impairment in their thinking ability or that they may have misunderstood the question asked in the study.
"The one thing that I don't see [in the study] is whether or not they might have expected that they would have a snack and then get behind the wheel," she says. "It is so obvious to them, such a part of their lives. ... It is conceivable they may have misunderstood the directive."
Clarke concedes that misunderstanding may be a possibility, but he considers it unlikely that so many of the people studied would have made the same mistake. "I don't think the numbers would bear that out," he says. "All of us physicians wish that our patients would make good decisions, ... and it is our responsibility to review with them the many things that could be dangerous in their lives and help them to be safer."