Diabetes and Driving

Car Front Back

An estimated 29 million people in the United States have diabetes, and their medical condition has the potential to affect their ability to drive safely.

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic, serious condition that affects how the body regulates its blood glucose (sugar) levels through insulin.

Glucose is one of the main sources of fuel for the body. It passes into the bloodstream, where it is used by the body’s cells. Insulin helps cells use the glucose. Not having enough insulin, or having too much glucose in the blood affects a person’s ability to complete everyday tasks, such as operating a motor vehicle.

There Are 2 Types Of Diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes happens when the body cannot produce insulin anymore, so it cannot regulate blood glucose levels at all. There is no cure for type 1 diabetes, and people with this condition need to take insulin injections several times a day.

Type 2 diabetes happens  when the body produces insulin, but can’t regulate it very well. The bodies of people with type 2 diabetes might experience insulin resistance. There is no cure for type 2 diabetes, but losing weight, eating well, and exercising can help reduce insulin resistance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Diabetes can lead to many secondary health conditions, such as blindness, nerve damage, kidney damage, heart disease, stroke, and more.  If your blood glucose levels fluctuate up or down, you can also experience disorientation, lose consciousness, or worse.

These conditions can affect your ability to drive safely in many ways. If you lose consciousness at the wheel or experience a heart attack or stroke when driving, you can cause accidents and risk serious harm to yourself and others. If you experience nerve damage and lose feeling in your feet or hands, this can affect how well you can operate your vehicle, and it puts you at higher risk for accidents.

It depends. DMV might need additional medical information when you apply for or renew your DL and indicate that you have diabetes. Here is what might happen in that situation:

A DMV field office representative will:

  • Review your DL/ID application for completion.
  • Ask you to briefly explain your medical condition.
  • Determine if further review by the DMV Driver Safety Branch is necessary.
  • Explain to you  what happens if your condition requires a referral to the DMV Driver Safety Branch.
    • Send your DL information to the DMV Driver Safety Branch nearest to your residence for further review, if applicable.
    • If you get referred to the Driver Safety Branch, you might have to take vision and knowledge tests, but you may not be able to take your driving test, if applicable, until you have been cleared by Driver Safety.

The Driver Safety Branch, as authorized by California law, is responsible for identifying “high risk” drivers, or people whose ability to drive safely might be negatively affected by their health conditions.

If DMV refers you to the Driver Safety Branch, here is what happens:

  • The Driver Safety Branch reviews your driver information sent from your local DMV office.
  • If they find that your medical condition will not affect your ability to drive, then Driver Safety sends you a clearance letter instructing you to return to your local DMV office to complete your DL/ID application.
  • If Driver Safety needs more information about how your medical condition affects you, they will send you a Notice of Reexamination (DS 2011) form and/or a Driver Medical Evaluation (DS 326) form for you to fill out.
  • When you receive these forms, you must take them to your doctor and have the doctor fill out the medical professional portion of the DS 326. You must return the DS 326 to Driver Safety within 24 days.

If you do not return the form within 24 days, your driving privilege will be suspended until you return the DS 326 form.

  • Driver Safety then reviews your DS 326. If it is determined that your medical condition does affect your ability to drive safely, DMV might take one of the following actions:
    • Impose driving restrictions.
    • Impose medical probation that requires you to send periodic medical reports to DMV on a specific schedule.
    • Suspend or revoke your driving privilege so you cannot be licensed to drive. California Vehicle Code (CVC) §§12806 and 12809

If DMV restricts, suspends, or revokes your driving privilege, you will receive a notice with instructions regarding your right to appeal the decision.

When you return to your local DMV field office to complete your DL application, a DMV representative will:

  • Review your Driver Safety clearance letter or other Driver Safety notification.
  • Issue you a DL permit, provisional DL, or interim DL, depending on what is appropriate.

You will be issued a DL permit if you are a first-time applicant and need to complete a drive test. A provisional DL will be issued if you are under 18 years old. An interim DL will be issued if all testing is complete while you wait for your DL to be mailed to you.

Your doctor is the best source for information about how diabetes will affect you. The following websites provide more information on diabetes, nutrition, diet, fitness, lifestyle, prevention, statistics, research, and community programs.

Need something else?