New Law: No Texting My Pancreas While Driving

Apparently, Indiana has it in for those of us who Text Our Pancreas.

You know, like Kim says over at Texting My Pancreas - .those of us who are pancreatically-challenged and occasionally have to get word to our lazy organ using an insulin pump or CGM.

Well, the time has arrived making it illegal to do that while behind the wheel.

Lawmakers here have passed a law restricting texting while driving, and Gov. Mitch Daniels (who may soon be announcing a White House run) signed this into law on May 10. This means that starting July 1, you won't be able to utilize your cell phone or telecommunication device behind the wheel in any texting-like manner in the Hoosier State (and no, I've got NO CLUE what a Hoosier actually is...)

This isn't Indiana-specific, though. We have a national trend that encompasses some 30 states at this point, and Indiana is joining the fray with a new law banning the practice. Legislation in the form of House Enrolled Act 1129 prohibits drivers from using any telecommunications devices while behind the wheel. Stats say that those drivers who engage in texting while driving are more dangerous.

While I have and do occasionally glance at or fire off a text message during my commute, it's not something I do often and certainly don't have any opposition to the message that drivers should not engage in texting while driving.

Now, don't misunderstand me here. Talking on a cell phone or using it to text someone while driving is definitely distracting and can lead to deadly crashes.  But, so are a million other things that people do while driving. Like changing the radio station or CD. Grabbing the soda or coffee, and making sure you don't dribble any on your work clothes. Eating a cheeseburger. Or just eying the driving directions you have printed out to make sure you know where you're heading.

All of these things can be distracting and dangerous, but we're regulating one of them. My big concern is the enforcement of these bans, and how police can efficiently gauge one's texting habits behind the wheel to determine whether a citation should be given out. What if the phone is sitting on your lap? What about those who use navigation or GPS programs on their phones for driving directions? Are you more impaired by reading those directions on your phone versus reading them from a piece of paper in the passenger seat?

Pondering the enforcement of this, how would you write the law? Prohibit so much as a glance in the general direction of a cellphone while driving? Should we mandate that cell phones be stored out of the driver's sight while the car isn't in park? What about other things that might distract someone from the road, like navigation systems or radio and CD players or shiny objects? Pretty boys or girls in the passenger seat you might want to put your arm around? How would you prove a driver was looking at a cellphone and not something near it?

Once the police pullover takes place and it's up to the officer to determine whether you are in fact a Texting Driver, should the said public servant have the right to demand to see your phone or PDA? Do police have the right to confiscate the device in order to use in building a case against a suspected Texting Driver? Lots of issues there, but at least the Indiana legislation prohibits this police confiscation (other states do not).

But all of those issues aside, what does this mean to the Diabetes Community who might be wearing devices that some consider to be "telecommunications devices" - or at least produce the same kind of momentary distraction this law aims to eliminate?

Here in Indiana, the new law doesn't apply to either amateur radio equipment operated by an FCC-licensed operator or a communications system installed in a heavy commercial vehicle. But no mention of other devices, or allowing for any law enforcement discretion when facing this scenario.
Flashback photo from early 2010, long before the new law.
My blood meter transmits my BG results wirelessly to my pump, which then in turn communicates with any CGM and can then be "texted" by the push of a few buttons.

Hmmm. Sounds like it might apply to me.

So, what if you're CGM starts vibrating or beeping as you are driving, and you're in a position to ignore it completely or glance at it to determine the cause behind the alert. Is it Low or High, predicting a change, lost sensor or time for a blood test?

Do you pull over just to check? Because if you ignore it, that can be a safety issue. And if you check while driving, and this law does apply, then you're breaking the law.

Personally, I've become annoyed when the Pump or CGM at my waist vibrates and repeats. I have unbuckled my seat belt and pressed buttons, but I've also pulled it from the holster and glanced down at it momentarily while not altering my driving behavior. Do I now need to worry that this could lead to a traffic ticket?

Some states have contemplated this, and created exceptions for certain items like GPS and navigation devices. Some specifically mention medical devices not applying. Others spell out how the laws only apply to "texting or email" devices, not the more general "telecommunications" or "wireless" devices. But it's not consistent, and variances exist in every state. And I'm stuck in a state that swipes at this with a very broad brush.

Clearly, this really does take the whole Driving While Diabetic issue to a new level.

Some say just pull over. Don't test while driving. Don't "operate" a pump or CGM while behind the wheel. Maybe that's a good general rule of thumb, but I personally have found myself in situations where my CGM or pump keeps alerting me at the waist and distracting me. Rather than just hit a button and make it be quite, I look at it and do what's needed. If Low, I may pull over and do a fingerstick but I may also just quickly do what's necessary because it's not dangerous.

Curious about whether this has ever come up anywhere before with this national push, I put a few feelers out there to attorneys practicing in the diabetes area. The consensus was that this hasn't come up as far as they know, but they noted it's an interesting issue that could be a possibility.

"Really, I have never heard of that happening, but i guess i understand the concern," one wrote. "It does not seem impossible by any means, but I do not really think it's likely to happen often. Obviously, it is far worse if a driver is hypo while driving and that is the serious danger. But I guess it is not inconceivable that one of us could be distracted while (doing that) and get into an accident.  I do not think it would be a frequent occurrence, but I guess it it possible."

Another D-Lawyer on the opposite end of the country says this, "I must say that I have never encountered any case or issue relating to the need to make some adjustment while operating a vehicle. My guess is that any argument that a diabetic should be permitted to make an adjustment while driving would not get very far in the face of any showing that the chance of an accident increases with the distraction and that the adjustment could be made by pulling to the side of the road and stopping the car."

Those with the American Diabetes Association relay a message that "Our advocacy department and scientific & medical affairs department seem to agree: Better be safe than sorry, so it’s best to pull over."

So there you go. The D-Legal Powers That Be say the best advise is for people on a CGM or pump - or those who might need to test while driving - to make sure they are aware of their numbers while driving in order to avoid a Low, and if need be just pull over.

With all these new laws popping up and police getting used to recognizing this while on the road, it'll be interesting to see if this ever comes up as a concern among People With Diabetes who happen to be Texting Our Pancreas on a regular basis.


Kelly Booth said…
I never really thought about the pancreas devices being a part of that law. This will be interesting to see what happens. My state (PA) is also proposing a law banning use of cell phones & texting.

I have also been on roads that you were not allowed to pull over, especially in construction areas. Wonder what happens then.
Pearlsa said…
It is ban here in my Province (British Columbia) the law passed last year. And it applies to all handheld devices. Our meters, pumps, and CGM are includes.

Although I think people can still eat their burgers while driving huh!
Brenda Bell said…
Issue 1: If you are on a crowded highway, pulling over may NOT be an option.

Issue 2: If the issue is that serious, perhaps one needs to pull over ASAP anyway.

Issue 3: Most traffic-enforcement officers are unfamiliar with diabetes and diabetes care; to them, all handheld devices are cellphones or beepers, and nobody acts uncoordinated unless they are inebriated, intoxicated, or high on illegal drugs. They tend to arrest, taser, and shoot first, and then forget about asking questions later.
Meagan said…
Found this post fascinating even though I don't have an insulin pump, I'm still on injections.

Really makes me think though...I take shots while driving on occasion (Stupidly scary - I know!), AND I have been known to test while at traffic lights.
I guess I always figured it would be better to know than to go low and cause a terrible accident. Yikes, great subject!
Becky V said…
What about operating your child's device in the backseat? I do that when we have to eat in the car (on road trips, on the way to dr. appts, on the way to activities, etc.) It happens a lot. Or if I have him test and he's just high? He needs insulin right then. I don't think it is always safer to pull over! especially on the free-way. I'm more worried about pulling over and pulling back on causing an accident than punching a few buttons while I zoom along with all the other cars at 65mph. But that's just me. Thankfully he is now old enough that I can walk him thru punching buttons himself...

Thanks for the thought provoking post Michael!
Liz said…
It's been the law here in NY so I'm already used to it. I haven't really thought about it, but I check my CGM while driving (just a quick glance) but pull over to do anything else D-related because I am a klutz. I have not mastered the finger pricking then actually getting the drop of blood into the test strip yet.
Renata said…
My worry is not even the know you have heard about those who have wrecked while messing with the radio. What about those who are scrambling for candy (or whatever) to get out of or avoid a bad low. Reaching across the car to the glove compartment... I think you have valid questions and my guess is that it's going to end up being a case by case issue. MHO
Holly said…
Good post. My daughter has a "remote" (dinosaur ages, but still), that I even use if she's sitting behind me! But if you are the driver? You take care of yourself whenever you have to. End of story.
Ugh. sorry you have to fight for something so simple. : ( HOlly
AmyT said…
Man, that's really bad news for long road trips! Maybe that Ford in-car CGM stuff is more important than I thought -
I think that anything that distracts you from driving your vehicle should be illegal. You could really hurt or kill someone when your not paying attention.
Anonymous said…
" think that anything that distracts you from driving your vehicle should be illegal. You could really hurt or kill someone when your not paying attention."

So no music, no passengers, no food/sodas/snacks, no kids, no use of the buttons to roll down my windows, or to turn on my air-conditioning, no flashing billboards on the side of the road?

How would outlawing everything that distracts me from driving even be possible?
It is true. Checking your Pancreatic device or configuring it while driving is now considered a type of distracted driving.
You can avoid such an accident if you just follow the traffic rules. Everything is organized in the road if everyone will consider these rules.
Unknown said…
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Unknown said…
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Unknown said…
Whenever you're behind the wheels, I think you should have your full attention on the road. Any little distraction may lead to a tragic accident. All car accident lawyers would agree to since they've handled so many cases regarding accidents caused by texting.
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