By Linda Uhr
Accredited Practising Dietitian and Diabetes
When you have been diagnosed with diabetes there seems to be so
much information to understand and absorb. Finding clear and
concise answers to questions regarding your health isn't always
straightforward. Trying to understand what your rights and
responsibilities are regarding driving and diabetes is a perfect
Why is it important to consider driving when you are
living with a chronic condition?
Driving a motor vehicle brings with it major personal and legal
responsibilities. It is a complex skill that requires both mental
and physical ability; therefore, having a condition that may impair
one's ability to carry out this skill is a road safety
Diabetes is listed as a chronic medical condition that may
affect your driving ability.
The main areas of concern are either severe hypoglycaemia
(dangerously low blood glucose requiring help from another person)
or long-term complications that effect vision, the heart, and
nerves (particularly in the feet). With long term diabetes-related
complications, there may be, for example, vision impairment or
numbness in the feet, which affects the ability to see other
vehicles on the road or feel the vehicle pedals, therefore reducing
the ability to operate a vehicle safely. This places oneself and
others at risk. Having systems in place to make sure each and every
one of us are fit to drive is essential.
What do I have to do?
When you are diagnosed with diabetes your GP will conduct an
assessment of your health to ensure you have no conditions that may
affect your ability to drive. They will check your vision, for
example, to ensure there are no complications that may make driving
unsafe. If your GP is concerned you may be unsafe to drive you may
be required to advise the Department of Transport.
Are you over 75 years of age? If you recently made it to the
exclusive 75+ club then it is your responsibility to carry a
Medical Certificate for Motor Vehicle Driver form (F3712). This
form is available online, at Transport and Motoring Service Centres or at
police stations in rural and remote areas. You are required to
visit your GP every year and have this certificate reviewed.
The next question to ask yourself is, "How are you currently
treating your diabetes?"
Below is three possible options to choose from. Select whichever
option most closely fits with your current diabetes management.
Option A. I treat my diabetes with diet, exercise and
If you are currently managing your diabetes through healthy
lifestyle measures, don't have any known conditions discussed in
step 1 and currently are not requiring either medications or
insulin, you are not required to notify the Department of Transport
in Queensland. This information is valid for both private and
Option B. I treat my diabetes by taking glucose lowering
medication (not including insulin).
For those living with diabetes who are currently taking
glucose-lowering medications (both oral and injectable), you may be
required to contact the Department of Transport. Your GP will be
the person to make recommendations if you need to and this will
often depend on the type of oral medication and if it causes
For a private licence this requires only a five-yearly review
for your non-conditional licence. Your GP will ask you questions if
you are at risk of having hypoglycaemia. With oral and injectable
medications excluding insulin, hypos are generally only a risk with
diabetes if you are taking a certain class of medications called
For commercial licences you are also required to contact the
Department of Transport and will require an annual review with a
treating doctor (when taking Metformin alone) or a specialist
(Endocrinologist/Consultant Physician specialising in diabetes)
depending on the type of medication you are on.
Option C. I treat my diabetes by using
For those who are using insulin to manage their diabetes, for
both private and commercial licenses, the Department of Transport
must be notified. For private licences, your treating doctor will
conduct two-yearly reviews, while for commercial licences a
specialist needs to perform an annual review.
When taking insulin you are at risk of hypoglycaemia.
Hypoglycaemia affects your ability to drive at that moment (and for
30 minutes after a hypo), because there is a lack of glucose
getting to the brain reducing the ability for the brain function
properly, let alone operate a vehicle.
Checking your glucose level before driving is recommended to
assist in avoiding a hypo. Taking hypo treatment and snacks in your
car is recommended for unforeseen circumstances, like traffic
If you do experience a severe hypo (where you need another
person to assist with treatment) there is a significant period of
time where you should not drive.
According to the Assessing Fitness to Drive document, the
minimum time before returning to driving is often six weeks. It can
often take many weeks to re-establish safe patterns of glucose
levels and you may have a reduced awareness of hypos. This period
of time is determined by the treating specialist.
Occasionally your GP may require you to undertake a driver
assessment to help determine if you are fit to drive. This is
conducted by an occupational therapist and will incur a fee which
is your own responsibility to pay. For more information on this
please contact Occupational Therapy Australia on (07) 3852 6755 or
It is highly recommended to inform your motor vehicle insurer
when you are diagnosed with diabetes. If you choose not to report
this, you may have issues in the future with insurance claims.
GPs are required to look at an individual's diabetes management
holistically before making a decision regarding one's fitness to
drive, while addressing an extended hyperglycaemic state (high
blood glucose levels generally above 15mmol/l).
- 5 to drive - where does this fit?
"Above 5 To Drive" was a guideline originally published in 2011
by a working party from the Australian Diabetes Society and the
Australian Diabetes Educators Association and funded by the
National Diabetes Services Scheme. It was developed to create an
awareness for people living with diabetes that if they were at risk
of hypoglycaemia, then having blood glucose levels above 5mmol/L
before they get in the car is a priority and a matter of
As has been mentioned in this article, not all people living
with diabetes are at risk of hypoglycaemia. Being 5 to Drive is
relevant for those who take a class of medication called
Sulphonylureas or inject insulin for the management of their
Take home message
You may have the sense, after reading this article, that the
answers to your questions are not black and white or
If you still have doubts about what you are required to do in
your situation we recommend you speak with your trusted GP or
contact the Diabetes Queensland Helpline on 1300 136 588 to speak
with a health professional informed on this topic.
Austroads & National Transport Commission (2016). Assessing
fitness to drive. Retrieved 20th Dec, 2019 from
Queensland Government (2018). Safe driving. Retrieved
20th Dec, 2019 from
Queensland Government (2018). Medical fitness to drive.
Retrieved 20th Dec, 2019 from