As your child nears driving age, your worries may rev up like a jet engine. It’s worrisome when any teen takes the wheel, but the addition of diabetes can amp up the fear factor.
First, every teen should learn that driving is a privilege, not a right. Whether kids have diabetes or not, they need to prove they’re capable and understand their privileges can be taken away if they violate important rules.
Next, driving while experiencing hypoglycemia is a dangerous scenario – it’s similar to driving while drunk. During hypoglycemic episodes, a person’s instincts, motions and actions are impaired. Consequently, it’s extremely important for your child’s blood sugar to be under control when driving.
Laws about driving with diabetes
While laws about driving with diabetes vary from state to state, basic rules apply to all. For example, if someone has an accident as a result of a hypoglycemic episode, they can be held accountable.
Your child should know to:
- Perform a blood-sugar check just before driving.
- Make a repeat blood-sugar check at predetermined times when driving long distances.
- Keep fast-acting glucose sources in the car.
- Wear or carry medical identification.
In Ohio, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles requires an “Authorization to Release Medical Records,” available from Akron Children’s. Your child’s hemoglobin A1C must be below 9%. The original Ohio driver’s form will be signed annually if the level is between 6-7.9% or every 6 months if it’s between 8-9%. Evidence of severe glycemic management will also be taken into consideration.
As the parent, you should be in control. Your teen should know that driving without first checking her blood-sugar level means losing driving privileges. This isn’t just for your child’s safety, but for the public’s good.
It can be challenging to stick with rules. Revoking driving privileges often means you have to revert to driving kids around. But, a short time without driving rights should be enough to remind your teen it’s important to abide by the rules.
A simple way to lay out the rules is to draft a driving contract. You can use the following sample to create your own, along with the advice of your child’s medical team. Involve your teen in developing the contract so he will be more likely to take it seriously. If the contract is not followed, your child’s healthcare provider may contact the BMV.
SAMPLE DRIVING CONTRACT
By signing below, you agree to do the following:
- Test your blood sugar 4 times per day AND before getting behind the wheel. If your blood sugar is less than 100mg/dl, have a small snack before driving.
- Take insulin as prescribed.
- Have something in your car within reach to eat (such as glucose tabs or glucose gel), in case you feel low.
- Pull over immediately to test yourself if you feel low. If you are less than 70mg/dl, eat something and do not resume driving until 30 minutes after your blood sugar has returned to greater than 100mg/dl.
- On long trips, test your blood sugar every 2 to 3 hours and do not miss regular meals or snacks.
- Wear your seatbelt.
- Obey traffic laws.
Patient signature: _____________________________________________________Date: ____________
Parent signature: _____________________________________________________ Date: ____________
Witness signature: ____________________________________________________ Date: ____________
With the peace of mind that a driving contract brings, you should be ready to say, “Start your engines.” It’s time for your teen to experience this aspect of growing up and enjoy the freedom that driving can bring.
For more information, visit diabetes.org/driving.