DrivingDiabetes and driving

  • If you have diabetes, you can hold a driver’s licence or learner permit as long as your diabetes is well controlled.
  • The main concern for licensing authorities is the possibility of hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) while driving.
  • Diabetes complications like eye problems are also of a concern as it affects your ability to drive safely.
  • You must inform the licensing authorities if you develop diabetes. You should also advise your motor vehicle insurance company.

Fitness to Drive Guidelines

For the past few years there has been great concern about the national guidelines being used to assess fitness to drive for people with diabetes.

Diabetes Australia and our state and territory member organisations have led the way on advocating changes to these guidelines on behalf of all people with diabetes to make sure they only address aspects directly affecting someone’s ability to drive.

We are very pleased to advise that, from 1 October 2016, revised and clearer guidelines will help Australians with diabetes and their healthcare teams decide if it is safe to drive.

Diabetes Australia has worked closely with diabetes specialist clinicians and researchers in the Australian Diabetes Society (ADS) and credentialled diabetes educators in the Australian Diabetes Educators Association (ADEA),and together we have advised and collaborated with the National Transport Commission (NTC), to make the guidelines fairer and safer for people with diabetes.

The old guidelines used a person’s average blood glucose measurement over a three-month period (the HbA1c measurement) to determine if their diabetes management was adequate to indicate they were safe to drive. This number was only ever intended as a guide for doctors, but unfortunately many people with diabetes had their licences suspended because this ‘guide’ measurement was interpreted strictly.

Diabetes Australia has successfully advocated for the removal of references to HbA1c from the guidelines and we are very pleased Austroads has made these changes.

Diabetes Australia also strongly advocated to maintain the guideline’s emphasis on the immediate measurement of blood glucose level using test strips (or continuous glucose monitoring devices) to ensure that a person’s blood glucose level is not low i.e. hypoglycaemia, which can directly impact on safe driving. This is even more important when a person has impaired hypoglycaemia awareness.

The key message for safe driving is the “Be Above 5 to Drive”.

The major changes for drivers with diabetes are:

Diabetes treated by glucose-lowering agents other than insulin

  • For private vehicle drivers, the criterion ‘the person experiences early warning symptoms of hypoglycaemia’ has been modified to also include ‘or has a documented management plan for lack of early warning symptoms’.
  • For commercial vehicle drivers, the criterion for a conditional licence ‘the condition is satisfactorily controlled’ has been removed so that the criteria focus on the main risks to safety, which are hypoglycaemia and end-organ effects (e.g. vision impairment)
  • For both private and commercial vehicle drivers, a suitable specialist is defined as an endocrinologist / consultant physician specialising in diabetes.

Diabetes treated by insulin

  • For both private and commercial drivers, the criterion for a conditional licence ‘the condition is satisfactorily controlled’ has been removed. The criteria now focuses on the main risks to safety, which are hypoglycaemia and end-organ effects (e.g. vision impairment).
  • For private vehicle drivers, the criterion ‘the person experiences early warning symptoms of hypoglycaemia’ has been qualified to also include ‘or has a documented management plan for lack of early warning symptoms’.
  • For both private and commercial vehicle drivers, a suitable specialist is defined as an endocrinologist / consultant physician specialising in diabetes.

You can download a copy of the guidelines below. Alternatively you can visit the Austroads website to purchase a hard copy or access further information.

If you have questions, please contact the Infoline on 1300 136 588.

Assessing fitness to drive guidelines 2016

Advocacy

Diabetes Australia provided a policy response to the inclusion of a new Medical Standard for Licensing.

Although there are uniform national ‘Fitness to Drive’ guidelines, all states have slightly different regulations and requirements to assess people with diabetes who wish to begin, or continue driving and intend to protect your safety and the safety of other drivers. The guidelines attempt to balance the safety of all concerned and any unfairness against people with diabetes.

For more information, refer to your local licensing agency for specific guidelines and the national guidelines for driving.

Obtaining a Licence

If you have diabetes, you need to provide a medical report before a driver’s licence or learner permit can be issued. This report should be from your treating doctor or diabetes specialist stating that a medical examination has been performed and you have been assessed as fit to drive.

Inform the Licensing Authorities

If you develop diabetes you must inform the Driver Licensing Authorities in your state or territory. In most cases if you manage your diabetes by insulin you will require a medical certificate every two years and if you manage it by tablet every five years. If you control your diabetes by diet and exercise alone you are still required to inform them. If you are required to notify the authorities but don’t, you could be charged with driving offences if you have a driving accident.

Informing Your Motor Vehicle Insurer

If you develop diabetes it is also advisable to inform your motor vehicle insurer.

If you don’t report your diabetes to your motor vehicle insurance company you may have problems with insurance claims.

Hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) & Driving

Hypoglycaemia can impair your ability to drive safely. Ensure that you always have a carbohydrate snack available in your car. If you feel your blood glucose level is low, pull over immediately and stop your car. Do not restart your car until you have treated your hypoglycaemia and feel absolutely normal.

Diabetes Complications and Driving

If you have impaired vision, nerve damage or heart problems, talk with your doctor about the possible effects on your ability to drive safely.

Diabetes and Driving Booklet

Driving a motor vehicle comes with major personal and legal responsibilities and liabilities. Diabetes and Driving provides advice on the extra precautions needed to be taken to help maximise road safety.

Diabetes and Driving Booklet