– Million drivers face losing licence under EU diabetes diktat (Daily Mail, August 20, 2011):
Up to one million people with diabetes could lose their driving licences because of harsh new European rules classifying them as unfit to drive.
Experts claim the ‘unnecessarily strict’ changes will affect hundreds of thousands who have been driving for decades without problems.
They say the rules amount to a blanket ban on diabetics taking insulin who occasionally have ‘hypos’ – episodes of hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar, which may cause blackouts if not countered with a sugary snack.
Victim of Brussels: There are fears that diabetes sufferers will be unfairly penalised by the new legislation
Victim of Brussels: There are fears that diabetics will be unfairly penalised by the new legislation
Under a new definition of the rules to meet an EU directive, a diabetic who has two hypos in a year – even while in bed – will end up banned from driving.
The charity Diabetes UK has protested to the Department for Transport about the changes, due to take effect in October.
It has told officials that up to a million people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes who use insulin could be ‘negatively affected’ by the changes, but says there is no evidence that drivers with diabetes pose a greater risk than others.
The charity fears the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is applying the EU directive far more strictly than other countries.
In fact some diabetics have found the DVLA is already using the new interpretation to ban them from the roads. Simon O’Neill, of Diabetes UK, said the new DVLA definitions of ‘severe’ and ‘recurrent’ hypoglycaemia threatened a blanket ban for many.
Up until now, severe hypos were defined as episodes where another person was needed to administer carbohydrate or take other actions during waking hours to assist the diabetic.
The new definition used by the DVLA also includes hypoglycaemia when the individual is asleep.
Mr O’Neill said the EC Directive itself does not specify nocturnal hypoglycaemia, yet the DVLA has chosen to include it in assessing fitness to drive.
He added: ‘We believe nocturnal hypoglycaemia has no medical basis of relevance to driving.’
Professor Geoff Gill, professor of diabetes at Aintree University Hospital, Liverpool, said a tighter definition of hypoglycaemia was unnecessary as the current system required drivers to report when they had an episode they could not manage alone.
He said: ‘We’re not looking for a softer option, we don’t want people driving who are a danger. This is about an interpretation of the rules that will unfairly impact on the lives of many diabetics.
‘It could mean that people with diabetes who have been driving safely for years will lose the right to drive under these changes.
‘They won’t only be people who use the car to drive to the shops or a football match, but those who depend on driving for their livelihoods.’
A DVLA spokesman said: ‘We aim to strike the right balance – making sure that only those who are safe to drive are allowed on our roads, while at the same time avoiding placing unnecessary restrictions on people’s independence.
‘We must apply European medical standards but we consider every case individually and refuse licences only where absolutely necessary.’