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.