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The UK is being forced to change its regulations for drivers with insulin-treated diabetes, following changes to EU licensing standards.
Recurrent episodes of severe hypoglycaemia must now be taken into account – whether taking place while asleep or awake – having now been deemed a significant predictor of future ‘crash risk’.
The minimum requirements of the new regulations must be met immediately, with full implementation to be employed by January 2013, including the creation of appropriate safeguards for insulin-treated drivers operating large vehicles.
Professor Ken Shaw, Editor-in-Chief of Practical Diabetes, has labelled the changes “distressing”.
“Not surprisingly, these changes have resulted in significant impact from the media and particularly for those people with diabetes treated by insulin to whom the new standards are most relevant,” he said.
“To date, of those whose personal driving licences have been revoked since September 2010 because of serious hypoglycaemia concerns, a minority (10%) have been consequent to episodes occurring during sleep.
“For all so affected, this has proved a distressing outcome for which most were unprepared.”
The move marks a ‘tightening up’ of EU law, said Professor Shaw, in response to the clear potential for unrecognised hypoglycaemia to cause harm.
“From published data it is evident that unrecognised hypoglycaemia is clearly a significant potential driving hazard and hypoglycaemia unawareness substantially increases the frequency of severe hypoglycaemia,” he said.
“Furthermore, recurrent severe hypoglycaemia, defined as requiring the assistance of another person, has been reported in separate studies as consistently and strongly related to crash risk while driving.
“A history of severe hypo- glycaemia, resulting in loss of consciousness, over the past two years has been linked to a doubling of crash accidents.
“Neither the European report nor these population-based case control studies specifically address differences between episodes during waking hours and while asleep, but it is deemed that any recurrent severe hypoglycaemia under whatever circumstances remains strongly predictive of future crash risk.”