Alert: Driving With Diabetes

Driving With Diabetes (or Driving While Diabetic) is a topic that I've written about before. You may recall me recounting stories about my own "adventures" while on the road or when prepping to get behind the wheel. These situations teach us that one must always make sure their blood glucose level is at safe levels before getting behind the wheel - testing before putting the vehicle into gear is something every Person With Diabetes must do.

But sometimes, no matter how much one tries or prepares, he or she encounters a Low that might have some impact on the driving experience.

Now, I carry a BG Meter and always test before driving. A tube of glucose tabs stay in the door handle next to me, and there's also a backup jar that stays in my center console along with a pack of Skittles nearby. An alert card also stays in my wallet, and sure my insulin pump is an external sign that might tell some about my Type 1 diabetes. But really, if someone isn't trained to look for these items in a moment's notice, they might not be able to tell right away that I'm experience a medical emergency.

This came up recently when I was speaking to some parents of newly-diagnosed children with diabetes at an Indianapolis area D-Camp. I mentioned how this could happen, and one of the D-Dads noted how he works as a sheriff's deputy and has seen diabetic drivers experiencing lows. They appear drunk and it's not always easy to tell if that first responder doesn't have training to recognize a Low.

In reflecting on all of this, I recalled a specific Alert decal that could be put onto car windows, or hang on a rear view mirror to alert police or firefighters or whoever the first responder might be. This is D.A.D. Innovations, a company based south of Chicago. The man who founded this company is Mark Lippe, a Type 1 who had encountered some driving difficulties back in the 70s - basically he had a Low,  blacked out and crashed into a tree, then had police questioning him at the scene about what drugs he was on. Though he tried to explain, they didn't believe him and gave him three citations before placing him in the back of the squad car. Now with a diabetic teen daughter himself, Lippe didn't want the same issues to happen with her. So, the Diabetic Driver Products were born.

"With these decals, and now key chains, medical and emergency personnel could be alerted to the drivers condition and give appropriate medical treatment," the D.A.D. Innovations site says

My mom recently bought me a pair of decals that came with a keychain alert (thanks, mom!!!). They aren't expensive at all, but it was a cool little gesture that I greatly appreciated. Plus, a note on the card I received says that a portion of the proceeds from these medical awareness decals and key chains is donated to the American Diabetes Association and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. So there's that motivation, too, aside from the practical usefulness of these items. I've put one of the decals on the driver's side window of my red Ford Escape. Since I rarely drive my wife's car, won't put one there and will keep the other handy for the future.

Now, I've heard some raise concerns about tagging their vehicles with these decals. Questions come up, like whether these stickers could lead to some form of discrimination or give other drivers' a reason to glare or try to avoid driving near you? Might someone look at you differently or even blame your medical condition if you are involved in an accident, but it has nothing to do with diabetes? Personally, I don't take much stock in these arguments. I don't care what other drivers think about me. Let the state look at my driving record if they want to judge my driving (on second thought, let me retract that...).

This is about alerting first responders, who may not be able to recognize D-Symptoms initially and prevent some situations that have been written about in news stories - such as police mistakenly believing someone is intoxicated and trying to flee or resist arrest, when in fact they're having a medical emergency. That's the point of this.

Hopefully, there won't ever be a need for this alert to do what it's intended for. But if that situation does arrive, hopefully it will give those first responders a quick alert about what medical emergency is happening.


Suzi said…
I think the decals are good, but I like the keychain more. Chances are, keys are always on you as opposed to driving a car. It's kinda like a medical alert bracelet, without the jewerly factor...
Brenda W said…
That is a great idea :) I wonder if its something I should look into or if me getting a medical id bracelet would be enough. Thanks for sharing! :D
Anonymous said…
Great idea! Both the key chain and the decal are wonderful tools that we can utilize to avoid the wrong supposition of a EMT or PD. I have often wondered if the EMT's really check wrists or tags around the they really look for those things. Ask them and they will say "of course we do", but in reality, I have my doubts. I've had to tell ER docs that I am diabetic when being treated for a it makes me wonder. Super idea !!!!
Anonymous said…
I would prefer the keychain of those options. You know, we wear medical ID bracelets / necklaces, stickers proclaiming our health problems just seems like another 'Scarlet Letter' we are expected to wear.
In the early months after our daughter's diagnosis, we were diligent about having her wear a bracelet each time she was away from one of us. But if she was with us, we figured we could speak for her.

About 6 months after diagnosis we took a car trip half way across the country and back. It wasn't until we were a few hours from returning home that my husband and I realized that she should have been wearing her bracelet in the car at all times.

What if we had been in a wreck and the grownups couldn't communicate?

Back then she was on MDI, so even if she had been given a once over by paramedics, they wouldn't have realized she is diabetic.

Now we make a point that she wears her bracelet when she leaves the house with or without us. Even for walks around the block.

I could see using those keychains to attach to the zipper pull of the bag we use for her supplies that we carry with us.

In response to Anon above, we actually had a fieldtrip to a firehouse a week after returning home from the hospital. I asked a fireman if the bracelets really are useful and he said yes. He said they always look for medical ID bracelets.
Unknown said…
Great post Mike - I talked about these stickers before too, I think they're great.

My deal with the stickers is that they will (hopefully) prevent me from being shot or tazered by an officer who assumes I'm drunk or on drugs.

There was a video on CNN (can't find my post about it) where the guy got messed up pretty good, and the officers didn't see his medical ID until he was "subdued". I think the same thing would have happened with just the keychain.

Scared the shit out of me. Could happen to any of us.

I placed the stickers so that the officer would see them while approaching the car.

I do recognize the "scarlet letter" concerns, and they are valid - I guess my fears of getting shot/tazered overruled those concerns for me. I'm also pretty "out there" about my life with diabetes too, but recognize that is not the way many people choose to be about it.

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