When I first began driving, I was about 17 years old and all I wanted was to be free and independent, allowing me to feel like a mature and responsible adult. I knew that I had this extra thing to deal with and worry about. However I didn’t want my Diabetes to stand in the way of me learning and trying something new. I pushed and trained myself to think first and make my own decisions that would benefit my safety and wellness over all. The first encounter I had with T1D and driving happened shortly after getting my license where I had just checked my blood sugar before leaving my house, had a perfect and safe number, and then just 5 minutes into driving, I felt shaky and kinda funny. Immediately, I thought that I must have been low, so trusting my instincts, I pulled over, checked my BG, and I was right, a low number. So without panicking, I drank some juice, called my mom to let her know just for piece of mind (for the both of us), and waited about 5-10 minutes until I felt much better and stronger. Once I checked my blood sugar and saw that I was back in control, I began to drive again. It just takes a few of these minor experiences to allow you to feel confident in driving with your Diabetes as you would know the right actions to take if something like this were to happen again.
While driving is something we all fantasize about doing when we are young, when it comes to Type 1 Diabetes, there are some things to think about before getting behind the wheel.
Before you get behind the wheel, make sure to think of all the possible scenarios in which your Diabetes can take a toll on you and have a back up plan. For example, always have back up Diabetes supplies in your car in case of an emergency. Say your pump site somehow rips out of your body as you are commuting to work or on an outing with friends, you can easily pull over and park in the nearest parking lot and change out your site (wouldn’t you be glad you thought of it before hand?). What I like to do personally is have a small medical bag stored somewhere safely in my car filled with a back up supply of pump sites, test strips, syringes, glucose tablets, lancets, batteries, etc. This way, I am ready for any tricks my Diabetes may decide to play on me! Something else that has been a true lifesaver and has given me peace as I drive has been my Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) and I can’t even express how nice it is to just see where my blood sugars are as I drive and where they’re headed, allowing me to gage my time and plan ahead.
The most important thing to think about is how your blood sugars can affect your driving. If your blood sugars go below 70 mg/dL or above 300 mg/dL, that can be as dangerous as drunk driving as your reaction time and though process is delayed and slowed down quite a bit. I would recommend always making sure to check your blood sugars before your turn on the car to ensure you’ll be safe along the way. Planning ahead can be quite helpful. I know that may sound easier said than done, because we’re human. Life is unpredictable, so if you do have to drive somewhere unexpectedly in the case of an emergency, perhaps planning ahead wouldn’t be an option. However, having your own personalized back up plan can be a big help and reduce so much of the stress of driving. Driving can already be a stressful thing in itself, and Diabetes can add on lots of stress, so you should go whatever you possibly can do to eliminate that stress! Safety is the way to go, because not only are you responsible for your own life, you’re responsible for all the lives around you on the road.
I can remember countless times in which my blood sugars were all out of whack and my mind was foggy and unclear, so if I was with other people who knew how to drive, I would ask them if they could drive for me since it was unsafe for me to get behind the wheel and be responsible for their own lives.
Don’t stress driving with Diabetes. Think of it as when you first learned to ride a bike, you fell a few times most likely, but you didn’t give up, tried again, and ended up riding like a pro! Driving with Diabetes is the same thing, you may have a few complications every now and then, but eventually, managing your Diabetes in the car will be just as easy as turing the radio on to your favorite song! I don’t even stress it anymore and I am comfortable driving, all while managing my Diabetes. Of course I still take the appropriate precautions, I just don’t let it get the best of me! And you shouldn’t either!
So go ahead, get in your car and cruise with confidence!