I will never forget the morning I crashed my mom’s car because my blood sugar was low. I was taking her to the airport, it was the week before Christmas, and she was flying to Santa Fe with my step-dad. Their flight was early in the morning and I remember that I had a bowl of cereal (this was pre-low carb days) and hopped in their car. It was a brand new Cherokee jeep and I was excited that I was going to be able to drive it back to their house. I must have been 22 or 23 years old at the time, I was out of college and in the middle of that terrible and exciting stage of life where I was directionless….
My step dad parked the jeep at the departure zone and I hopped into the driver’s seat. I felt a little funny, but quickly reassured myself that I would be back home shortly. Waving goodbye to Mom and Charley, I drove away from the airport toward the highway. My blood sugar started to drop quickly. I squinted at the road and the huge green exit signs were blurry. But I was so close so I kept driving. My backpack was on the passenger seat next to me and I remember reaching over and trying to feel for candy with my hands but they kept coming up empty. Approaching an exit, I remember thinking, I should pull off here and get some candy at a gas station, but I couldn’t make it happen.
The next thing I knew someone was talking to me. Someone was opening the driver door and asking me if I was ok. I wanted to say I needed sugar but I couldn’t get the words out. Another ER person was at the passenger side door and must have discovered my ‘shot bag’ with all my diabetes supplies and then I heard the magic words: “She needs sugar. She’s diabetic.” I wasn’t wearing a medical alert bracelet because I didn’t want anyone to know I had diabetes and because I thought they weren’t cool.
I was taken by ambulance to the local hospital where I was kept for the entire day. I had to call my grandparents in New Mexico and tell them what happened (this was pre-cell phone days) and wait for my mom and Charley to get off the plane and drive to Santa Fe before I could tell them what happened. Their new car was totaled. I’d crashed into the guard rail of a bridge on the highway. Merry Christmas.
That day in the ER was the longest and most lonely day. I called a guy I was ‘sort of’ dating and he was too busy at work to come pick me up, so I had to cal a friend to come and get me. We drove to the lot where the jeep was towed and I couldn’t believe how bad it looked. I couldn’t believe I’d escaped the crash without injury. I couldn’t believe one bad decision caused so much damage.
So when I read about stiffer regulations about diabetes and driving, I am not outraged. It’s been 17 years since that crash and I’d like to say I’ve learned my lesson and that it will never happen again, but there simply is no guarantee. I test my blood sugar before I get in the car, especially now that I am a mom and traveling with precious cargo, but my blood sugar could drop at a moment’s notice and that is scary.
No restrictions were placed on my driving record after that crash and the only negative repercussions were that my mom’s insurance went up and she had to buy a new car. I think I should have to get my license renewed more frequently, and I think I should have to bring a letter from my doctor showing that I am in “good control.” I was unsafe 17 years ago and I’m lucky that I hit a bridge and not another car. In my opinion, part of living responsibly with diabetes is acknowledging the challenges and doing whatever we can to keep ourselves, and others safe.
There are precautions that people with diabetes should take to ensure they are safe behind the wheel.
- Always check your blood glucose before you get behind the wheel and at regular intervals during long drives.
- Always carry your blood glucose meter and plenty of snacks — including a quick-acting source of sugar — with you when you drive.
- Pull over as soon as you feel any of the signs of low blood glucose (hypoglycemia), and check your blood glucose level.
- If your blood glucose is low, eat a snack that contains a fast-acting sugar source such as juice, non-diet soda, hard candy, or glucose tablets. Wait 15 minutes and check your blood glucose again to make sure it’s at your target range before you resume driving.
- If you experience hypoglycemia unawareness, stop driving and consult your health care provider. Do not resume driving until awareness has been reestablished.
- Get regular eye exams for early detection of diabetes-related vision problems that can affect your driving ability.
For more information on safe driving, see the brochure “Driving When You Have Diabetes” created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the American Diabetes Association.
Read more at: Chanel Four News.