Thousands of diabetics face having their driving licences revoked because of a European directive on hypoglycaemic – or low blood sugar – attacks.
The ruling states that a type 1 or type 2 diabetic who takes insulin would lose their licence if they have two severe hypo attacks in one year.
But the problem lies in the use of the word ‘severe’ and now Diabetes UK is working with the DVLA to clarify the rules so that people with diabetes are not unfairly penalised.
Bridget Turner, head of policy for Diabetes UK, said: “At the moment the word severe can be interpreted in many different ways by different people so there needs to be a clarification. There also needs to be clarification about whether night time hypo, in which people who have an attack in their sleep, are actually at risk.”
About one million people in the UK take insulin to control their diabetes. Until now the DVLA has not released figures on those who do have their licences revoked because they have not been able to control their condition. But the fear is that unless the word ‘severe’ is clarified it could affect thousands.
Currently, the rules state that a licence can be revoked if a health professional decides a person is not safe to drive. People with diabetes have to reapply for their licence every three years and provide medical proof their hypos are being controlled. There is no evidence that diabetics cause any more road accidents than anybody else.
A hypo is defined as blood glucose level falling below a certain level. Symptoms can range from sweating to feeling anxious, trembling, hunger, going pale and palpitations. It varies from person to person. But it can generally be treated by having a sweet drink or taking some glucose tablets.
Louise Davies, 28, of London, has had type 1 diabetes since she was seven. She said the change in the ruling has led to enormous confusion. “I have been driving for 10 years and I always take precautions,” she said. “I test my blood sugars before I drive and carry some food around with me just in case. I do not want to do anything to put myself or anyone else in danger.”
Diabetes UK says there is now a need to raise awareness of hypoglycaemic attacks, what causes them and how they can be treated. The new rules are expected to be published within the next month.