More than 30 million Americans have diabetes. That’s 9.4 percent of the population, according to a report from the CDC. An additional 84.1 million people have prediabetes, meaning that they are at risk of developing diabetes in the next five years. While people with diabetes can lead full and happy lives, the disease is serious. If you or someone you know has diabetes, it’s important to understand how the disease impacts one’s ability to drive.

How Does Diabetes Affect One’s Ability to Drive?

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that interferes with the body’s ability to process blood sugar. Several common symptoms associated with diabetes can negatively impact a person’s ability to drive safety.

  • Vision problems
  • Fatigue
  • Nerve damage, especially in the feet, sometimes requiring amputation
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures

Symptoms are more likely to be worse when diabetics are not managing their condition, or when they are suffering from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

What Should Diabetics Do?

First of all, don’t assume that you’re not diabetic. According to the CDC, one out of four Americans with diabetes didn’t know they had the condition. The disease can be managed, but a diagnosis needs to be made first. You can take the American Diabetes Association’s online quiz to see what your risk level is, and talk to your doctor to see if you should be screened for diabetes.

  • If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, talk to your doctor about managing the disease through medication, exercise and diet.
  • Ask your doctor about your ability to drive, especially if your diabetes has lead to vision loss, seizures, loss of consciousness or other issues that could interfere with your driving.
  • Monitor your blood glucose level according to your doctor’s instructions, and do not drive when you feel unwell.
  • Carry your medical supplies and some doctor-recommended snacks in your car in case you experience issues while driving. Pull over as soon as you start to feel unwell, and do not start driving again unless you are sure that you can do so safely.
  • Be ready to discuss your condition at the DMV. According to the Diabetes Council, many states – including California and Texas – ask about health conditions that may affect one’s ability to drive, including diabetes. In some cases, a doctor’s evaluation may be needed before you are given the green light to drive. And be warned – lying to the DMV can cause you to lose your driver’s license and your car insurance coverage.
  • The Diabetes Council recommends using a special license plate, drivers license or other sign that indicates your condition in case you have an episode on the road. This will help alert police and paramedics to your needs.