Diabetes and Driving Safety

Patient Expert

Today I had to renew my driver license.   What a terrible way for the state of California to wish me a happy birthday, right?

Since I didn't think to make an appointment until last week and my license expires on Saturday, I spent the afternoon waiting in line at the DMV.   Overall, the wait wasn't too bad and I took work along, so at least it was productive.   What actually bothered me the most was when I got to the part of the renewal form where I had to disclose any medical conditions that may impair my driving.

I reviewed the list and, of course, diabetes was included.   So, I checked the "yes" box and wrote "Type 1 diabetes; I've never experienced an episode of losing consciousness" in the space for an explanation.

When my number was called, I approached the designated window and proceeded with the renewal.   The DMV employee looked over my application form and then zeroed in on the medical disclosure section.

"You have diabetes?" she asked.

"Yes, type 1," I responded.

"Is it well controlled?"

"Yes, very."

"How do you control it?" she inquired.

"With an insulin pump and multiple blood glucose tests per day," I explained.

"How many times a day do you use the pump?" she asked.

"It runs continuously."

She starts jotting something on my form, raises her eyebrows and says, "Oh, okay." I get the impression that she thinks my diabetes must be really bad to need a continuous stream of insulin.   I start me feel frustrated.

She leaves the desk to get more paperwork and starts asking me about my history of hospitalizations.   I mention that I was just in the hospital last year when I had a baby.   I kind of figured that wasn't what she was after, but I guess I just didn't feel like being cooperative.

"No, hospitalizations related to diabetes."

"Oh," I pretend to misunderstand.   I go on to provide the names of the two hospitals I've been admitted to for my diabetes: my diagnosis in 1993 and my one bout of ketoacidosis in 1999.   I'm starting to feel more defensive by the minute.

She needs to know my endocrinologists name and then inquires whether I've ever had a doctor vouch for my ability to operate of motor vehicle.

"Not that I recall."

I must have passed her examination because she gave me my paperwork, collected my fee, and sent me to the line to have my picture taken.   Thank goodness, I really don't like the picture I've been stuck with for the last four years

I thought I was almost out of the woods with my day at the DMV when the "photographer" hands me a driving test.   I explained that the person I talked to yesterday said that I didn't have to take the written test.

Apparently that person was wrong because I did, indeed, have to take half of the written test.   Eighteen questions and you can't miss more than three.   I was a little annoyed because I hadn't even looked at the driver's manual in years and wasn't prepared to take the test.   Luckily, either I'm a very knowledgeable driver or the test is just really easy, because I only missed one!

Upon reflection, I realized that I shouldn't be too annoyed with the DMV for questioning my diabetes.   It is important that the state protect the public from potentially unfit drivers.   However, it is always frustrating to be questioned about your control from someone who obviously knows little to nothing about diabetes.

Instead of focusing on what I can't control, namely diabetes education for the general population; I'm going to take this experience as a reminder to stay vigilant about my driving safety.   Although I've never had a diabetes episode that I couldn't remedy on my own, the potential is always there.   I want to tell the DMV each time they ask that I've had zero incidences that would jeopardize my ability to drive safely.