Living with Diabetes

Diabetes and Driving

I have been recently diagnosed - should I inform the DVLA...?

Driving woth diabetes - what are the risks?The main risk from having diabetes arises from hypoglycaemia which is a complication of the treatment rather than the diabetes itself. You are legally obliged to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) of a diagnosis of diabetes if you are being treated with insulin or oral hypoglycaemic agents (tablets). If you are treated with diet alone you do not need to inform the DVLA. If you have been started on Oral Hypoglycaemic tablets a full 'until 70' license is usually issued.

I have been asked to start on insulin, what happens now...?

Patients treated with insulin will be sent a Diabetic 1 form which will ask for further details including the name of the patients GP or hospital physician and for consent to approach that doctor directly if necessary. The licence will be issued for 1, 2 or 3 years. You have a responsibility to inform the DVLA of any complications which may affect the safety of your driving.

What complications are important...?

Diabetic retinopathy

Recurrent hypoglycaemia

Myocardial infarction


How do I contact the DVLA...?

Visit the DVLA website.

Or write to:

The Medical Adviser
Drivers Medical Unit
Longview Road
Swansea SA99 1TU
Fax: 0845 850 0095
Telephone: 0870 600 0301

Or contact your nearest local office in Suffolk:

DVLA local office
Podium level
St Clare house
Ipswich IP1 1UT

Enquiries about vehicles 0870 240 0010 (Textphone minicom users 01792 766 426).  

For enquiries about driving licences 0870 240 0009 (Textphone minicom users 01792 766366).

I drive a commercial vehicle, will I be allowed to continue...?

With effect April 1991 the law does not allow a Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) or Passenger Carrying Vehicle (PCV) licence to patients treated with insulin. A person with a LGV or PCV license will therefore have their license withdrawn if they progress to treatment with insulin.

Patients who had type 1 diabetes and were issued with such a licence before April 1991 when the law changed are the only exceptions to this rule. These cases are dealt with individually and licenses can be re-issued annually subject to a satisfactory medical review.

A LGV or PCV license can be held by patients treated by diet or OHAs providing there are no visual or medical problems.

With regard to Lighter Goods and Smaller Passenger Vehicles the second EU driver licensing directive came into force in the UK in January 1998. Insulin treated diabetic drivers lost their entitlement to drive lighter goods and smaller passenger carrying vehicles. This includes vehicles in the C1 category (between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes) and D1 category (small passenger carrying vehicles for 9 or more passengers). They will retain the right to pull caravans, drive cars with trailers and tow broken down vehicles by car.

The bar to driving vehicles in these categories covers only vocational (commercial) drivers and does not extend to individuals driving on a voluntary basis.

How do I avoid hypoglycaemia...?

Always check your blood sugar before and after a journey. During a long journey by car ensure frequent stops and check your sugar levels at least every two hours. A snack every two hours is advisable.

Always carry a source of fast acting carbohydrate food in the car such as chocolate or glucose tablets.

Always carry identification in the event of emergency.

If you have an unexplained attack of hypoglycaemia do not drive until you have addressed the cause. Discuss this further with your doctor or diabetes nurse.

Remember if you have an accident which is attributed to hypoglycaemia you may be liable to a charge of driving under the influence of drugs.

You should always abstain from alcohol completely when driving.

What to do in the event of hypoglycaemia...?

Stop driving as soon as it is safe to do so.

Take a tablet of glucose or a glucose drink

Remove the ignition key and move to the passenger seat. If on the Motorway leave your car with hazard warnings on and move to a position of safety.

How does this affect my insurance...?

Diabetes must be disclosed to your insurer at time of diagnosis and renewal of policy. Changes in treatment and complications must also be disclosed at this time. Failing to notify your insurer may render any claims you subsequently make, invalid. Not all insurance companies will load their policies in the same way and there is no single insurance scheme which will be the cheapest in every case. Contact the BDA for further advice.

Visual Standards for Driving

The standards for eyesight in patients with diabetes are the same as those for any other driver.  You should be able to read a number plate (7.9cm) at a distance of 20.5 metres and have a visual field of at least 120 in the horizontal axis and at least 20 in the vertical axis. This approximates to an equivalent Snellen Chart corrected acuity of 6/12. If  in doubt your doctor will refer you to the Ophthalmology Clinic for formal assessment.


Dr Nishan Wijenaike, Consultant Physician
West Suffolk Hospitals Diabetes Service
October 2002 (updated Oct 2008)