FAQs - Diabetes and Driving
I have diabetes. Can I keep driving?
Most likely. In consultation with your doctor, a decision will be made as to whether you are medically fit to drive. In assessing the suitability of people with diabetes to drive, medical evaluations document any complications and assess blood glucose (BG) control, including the frequency and severity of any hypoglycemic incidents.
Diabetes and its complications can affect driving performance due to:
- impaired sensory or motor function
- diabetic eye disease (retinopathy)
- nerve damage (neuropathy)
- kidney disease (nephropathy)
- cardiovascular disease (CVD)
- peripheral vascular disease and stroke
- incidents of hypoglycemia.
Motor vehicle licensing authorities can require licensed drivers to be examined for their medical fitness to drive. You should not have difficulty obtaining and maintaining an operator’s license if you:
- properly manage your diabetes,
- are able to recognize and treat the early symptoms of hypoglycemia, and
- do not have complications that may interfere with your ability to drive.
Do I have to report diabetes to the motor vehicle licensing authority?
Yes. As a rule, anyone applying for a driver’s license must disclose to the motor vehicle licensing authority any disease or disability which may interfere with the safe operation of a motor vehicle.
Is my doctor required to report that I have diabetes to the motor vehicle licensing authority?
Most likely. In most jurisdictions, your doctor is required to report anyone he or she considers unfit to drive. For example, with regard to diabetes, this could include someone who is newly diagnosed and just beginning to use insulin, someone who is not recognizing the early symptoms of hypoglycemia (unawareness), someone who has just experienced a severe hypoglycemic reaction, or someone who is not managing diabetes responsibly.
Can the motor vehicle licensing authority suspend my license?
Yes. It has the power to issue and to suspend your driver’s license. Your license may be suspended as a result of an accident caused by a hypoglycemic reaction or if your doctor reports a change in your medical condition that may affect your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.
The Medical Review Section of the licensing authority reviews each case to determine whether a license will be reinstated. The Medical Review Section will request a report from a diabetes specialist as well as records of self-monitoring blood glucose readings for a specific period of time. Other reports or documents may also be required.
What are the Canadian Diabetes Association recommendations for private or commercial drivers?
In June 2003, the Clinical and Scientific Section of the Canadian Diabetes Association published the Clinical Practice Guidelines for Diabetes and Private and Commercial Driving. These update our 1991 position statement on Diabetes and Commercial Driving.
More Information: Recommendations for Diabetes and Private and Commercial Driving
What is the National Safety Code for Motor Carriers?
The National Safety Code for Motor Carriers sets minimum performance and safety standards for drivers, including medical standards. The Code creates uniform standards across Canada, so that a driver licensed in one province/territory is considered licensed in all provinces/territories. Medical standards for drivers were developed by medical advisors and provincial and territorial motor vehicle licensing authority administrators.
What is the Canadian Medical Association’s Physicians’ Guide to Determining Medical Fitness to Drive ?
This handbook was created to assist physicians in determining whether their patients are medically fit to drive. Section 7.2, Diabetes Mellitus , was prepared in consultation with the Canadian Diabetes Association. The complete guide can be found on the Canadian Medical Association website.
I want to apply for a commercial licence. Can I drive in Canada? In the United States?
Canadians with diabetes using insulin can apply for a commercial license. Motor vehicle licensing authorities require a greater level of medical fitness for drivers operating passenger vehicles (buses/commercial vans), trucks and emergency vehicles. Commercial drivers spend more time driving and often under more adverse conditions than private drivers.
Canadians with diabetes using insulin can be licensed to drive a commercial vehicle in Canada. The Canada/US Medical Reciprocity Agreement (effective March 1999) recognizes the similarity between Canadian and American medical standards and provides for reciprocal arrangements on medical fitness requirements for Canadian and American drivers of commercial vehicles.
However, Canadian drivers who have diabetes requiring insulin , have monocular vision, are hearing impaired or have epilepsy requiring anticonvulsive medication are not permitted to drive in the United States.
What is the Canadian Diabetes Association’s position on diabetes and driving and licensing?
The Canadian Diabetes Association believes people with diabetes should be assessed for a driver’s license on an individual basis.