Diabetes patients need to take extra care when driving, as a sudden drop in blood sugar could prove to be dangerous when they're behind the wheel. (WRDW-TV / June 24, 2011)
News 12 at This Morning, Friday, June 24, 2011
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Drivers involved in crashes stemming from a medical condition are more likely to die or suffer more serious injuries, according to a recent National Highway Traffic Safety study.
A disease like diabetes has to be monitored from the minute you wake up, and even with close monitoring, doctors say blood sugar can drop instantly. If that happens while you're behind the wheel, it can become dangerous for everyone on the road.
When Ruth Wahl starts up her car she has a lot more on her mind than the average driver.
"You have to remember to take your blood sugar. Take your medicine and check your insulin. I mean just do a lot of different things," said Wahl, a diabetic patient.
She never leaves the house without her bag.
"Everywhere I go, that comes with me," Wahl said.
From her medicine to her blood glucose monitor, the bag is by her side so she can check her vitals. She even has treats for when her sugar drops.
"I could pass out. That's happened one time," Wahl said.
Robin Petry, a diabetes educator at University Hospital, said driving is an extra challenge for someone with diabetes.
"They have an added layer to that because their medications can affect blood glucose levels," Petry said.
Petry said even if the person does everything right, his or her blood sugar can still drop rapidly.
Capt. Scott Gay, of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, said that in some cases, a person with an extreme drop in blood sugar can be a worse driver than a drunken driver.
If an accident occurs, Capt. Gay said the person with the medical issue can still be at fault in the accident, depending on the details. If others were in harm's way during the accident, the person will be issued a citation.
"They are still responsible for making sure they are able to drive the vehicle at all times," Capt. Gay said. "It could be anything from failure to maintain lane or running a red light."
That's why Wahl wants to always be prepared with a constant reminder on her key chain and a medical bracelet to alert everyone of her diabetes in case she's in an emergency and needs immediate care.
The National Highway Traffic Safety study also found 20,000 people cause accidents stemming from a medical condition yearly. Earlier this month there was a fatal accident in Aiken after the driver of the car suffered complications from diabetes, ran off the road and hit a tree.
Petry said learning about the early warning signs is important, and other drivers on the road need to always practice defensive driving in case a situation like this ever arises.