Diabetics With Low Blood Sugar at Risk for Driving Accidents
The good news, says Cox, comes in identifying three primary symptoms that
help people recognize they're in trouble: trembling, visual disturbance, and
lack of coordination. "If you have difficulty keeping a steady pressure on
the foot pedal, or trouble steering a straight line; if you have trouble
negotiating turns; if you have trouble reading signs or recognizing that car
ahead of you -- you need to pull over," he says. "People need to be
aware of these symptoms."
The study also illustrates the need to take immediate action to correct
blood sugar levels. Pull off the road, drink a fast-acting sugar (soda or
juice), and allow 20 minutes for blood sugar levels to normalize. "You
can't wait until your blood glucose goes so low that your brain becomes
incapacitated," he says.
It's important to prevent hypoglycemia in the first place, says Cox. "If
you suspect that your blood sugar is between 70 and 90, you should not drive
until you've treated yourself. Otherwise, [if] you're going to be driving for
15 minutes ... you [might] slip into the critical range."
Philip Cryer, MD, professor of medicine and professor of endocrinology and
metabolism at Washington University in St. Louis, tells WebMD, "As one of
the accompanying editorials points out, there are no real consequences of
errors with the simulator, unlike with driving. We should be careful in
extrapolating from these data to the real-world driving situation."
Countering the criticism, Cox says that the simulators have been highly
reliable in his studies of driving impairments related to aging, Alzheimer's
disease, blood alcohol levels, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
"When we looked at older people and [performance on the] driving simulator,
then followed them five years out, those who drove worse on the simulator had
the most accidents," he tells WebMD.
Calling the study's overall conclusions reasonable and confirmatory, Cryer
adds a cautionary note against discriminating against people with diabetes.
"Most studies indicate there are few people with diabetes who should not
drive, [and] that the vast majority can drive and drive safely," he
- A new study shows that the driving abilities of diabetics are impaired when
blood sugar levels drop, even if the drop is a relatively small amount.
- If these drivers don't take immediate corrective action, they may slip into
a more serious, stuporous state that could cause serious accidents.
- Diabetics who experience trembling, visual disturbance, or lack of
coordination while driving should immediately pull off the road and drink a
soda or juice to help blood sugars normalize.