New drivers and type 1 diabetes

When your teen has type 1 diabetes, a good plan is necessary for your child’s safe transition from passenger to driver.

Getting a driver’s license is an exciting event for a teen, but it can also be a big cause of stress for their parents. Parents of all teens have reason to be worried because according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S. With this and the challenges of being a teen driver with type 1 diabetes in mind, a good plan is necessary for your child’s safe transition from passenger to driver.

The CDC has many good resources for parents regarding how they can positively influence the driving behavior of their teen. They compiled a list of the “Eight Danger Zones” for teen drivers along with what parents can do about each. For example, the number one danger for teen drivers is inexperience. Given this, they suggest providing at least 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving practice over at least six months. So what additional steps do parents of teens with type 1 diabetes need to take?

It can be helpful to start by knowing what your state’s laws are regarding the licensing of drivers with diabetes since state laws vary. Begin the discussion about the importance of driving safety along with the rules for driving with diabetes well before your teen is ready to take their driver’s test. Being prepared can help relieve some of the stress of having a teen driver. Make your child an active participant in deciding their driving privileges. A good tool for this is a parent-child driving agreement. This example from the CDC and can be modified to include additional responsibilities that a driver with diabetes must accept if they are going to drive. 

Here is a short list of the critical steps that any driver with diabetes needs to know. The following tips are adapted from the American Diabetes Association:

  • Always check blood sugar before driving
    • Never drive if your blood sugar is low
  • If your blood sugar is low, eat a remedy food and retest in 15 minutes
    • Only drive if your blood sugar is within your target range
  • Always carry snacks and your glucose meter with you when you drive
  • If you feel any symptoms of hypoglycemia, pull over immediately and test your blood sugar

For the best diabetes care and nutrition always check with your healthcare team. For more on diabetes and nutrition visit Michigan State University Extension.

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