Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, occurs when blood glucose levels drop too low to properly fuel the body. A person with diabetes can become hypoglycemic by taking too much insulin or diabetes medication or by skipping meals. If blood sugar levels continue to fall, the lack of adequate glucose begins to impair brain and nervous system functions. Additional symptoms appear that affect behavior and judgment including confusion, blurred vision, mood changes, weakness and poor coordination.
"Becoming hypoglycemic while driving can prove hazardous," said Daniel Cox, professor of psychiatric medicine at U.Va. Health System and principal investigator of the study. "Previous studies have looked at this problem but they did not distinguish between type 1 or type 2 diabetes and other factors that are important to a diabetic's risk for driving mishaps."
This study examined patients at diabetes specialty clinics at five U.S. and four European cities. Adults with type-1 diabetes, type-2 diabetes and non-diabetic adults were asked to complete an anonymous questionnaire.
The drivers with type-1 diabetes reported significantly more crashes, moving violations and hypoglycemic episodes than did patients with type-2 diabetes regardless of whether they used insulin. The type-2 diabetes group had driving mishap rates similar to non-diabetic drivers. However, only 20 percent of the drivers with type-1 diabetes were at increased risk of driving mishaps.