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S Afr Med J. 1996 Aug;86(8 Suppl):1018-20.

Driving and diabetics on insulin therapy.

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Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology, Johannesburg.


Patients with diabetes mellitus who require insulin therapy have always been thought to be at high risk of motor vehicle accidents, primarily because of the possibility of hypoglycaemic events while driving. There are, however, no specific guidelines in South Africa that allow for a rational decision as to when a diabetic is medically fit to drive. The Road Traffic Ordinance simply states that 'Patients with uncontrolled diabetes should be forbidden to drive'. No guidelines are given as to what constitutes 'uncontrolled diabetes'. The situation is not much clearer internationally, where various countries have different laws in this regard. Diabetics on insulin therapy are not restricted from driving private vehicles in any country, but the laws regarding commercial vehicle driving by diabetics on insulin are widely disparate. The actual increased risk of motor vehicle accidents incurred by diabetic drivers on insulin is also uncertain, there being wide variations in the risk rate in different publications. Literature review does suggest, however, that diabetics are probably at a slightly increased risk of traffic violations and accidents compared with the general population, but that this increased overall risk is slight and probably acceptable. There are, however, no known actual statistics for South Africa and any rational guidelines on driving for diabetics on insulin in this country will need to be based on international experience, mostly gleaned from the USA and Western Europe. The decision as to whether a diabetic on insulin should be allowed to drive (either a private vehicle or, more often, a commercial vehicle) is frequently left to the attending doctor. Appropriate guidelines, based on international experience, are suggested.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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