“Mom, can I drive?”
It’s one of those questions that gives me a momentary shudder. Maybe because I know my sixteen-year-old son doesn’t have a whole lot of driving experience, and I envision us driving off a cliff. Or maybe it’s because I’m just not emotionally ready for this particular rite of passage in my oldest child’s life. Either way, I’ve learned several techniques for disguising my white-knuckling and shallow breathing. We nervous mothers must appear calm and confident.
“Mom, would you relax?”
Teens with juvenile diabetes must be especially cautious as drivers, because symptoms of hypoglycemia, which include dizziness, blurred vision, trembling, confusion, sleepiness, and even loss of consciousness, can almost come out of nowhere. Low blood sugar can cause the same kind of impaired judgment that the use of alcohol or drugs might. In fact, my husband, who is a highway patrolman, has on many occasions initiated traffic stops where drivers who appeared to be drunk turned out to be diabetics having an insulin reaction. Teens are already at risk as drivers due to their general inexperience, but their diabetes presents an added concern for their safety and the safety of others.
Since an even greater amount of responsibility is required from these special kids, I think driving contracts are an especially good idea. Take some time and draft up a reasonable contract, and ask your diabetic teen to sign it before giving him or her permission to begin driving. Keep it posted or accessible as a reminder of the rules. A teen is more likely to be accountable and responsible when a contract exists. It eliminates misunderstandings and makes expectations clear, right from the start. The contract should include points such as these:
Driving Contract Points
- I will test my blood sugar prior to getting into the car. If my blood sugar is below 80, I will have a carbohydrate snack and retest my blood sugar prior to operating the car.
- I will keep a source of glucose in my vehicle at all times, such as glucose tablets, sweet tarts, a juice box, or some other snack in case my blood sugar is getting too low.
- If my Hemoglobin A1c (three month glucose average determined at the doctor’s office) is higher than 8.5, my driving privileges will be limited and possibly restricted until I get in better control.
- If I experience any symptoms of low blood sugar while driving, I will pull over at the first safe opportunity and eat a carbohydrate snack. Then I will test my blood glucose, prior to driving again.
- I will always wear my seatbelt, and will notify my parent(s) where I am going at all times.
You should add other points to the contract, such as cell-phone use while driving and how many teens can be in the car. (Statistically, with each additional teen in the car the chances of an accident increase significantly.) You might also designate that driving privileges depend upon grades received. (Statistically, kids with better grades are better drivers.)
Reward your teenage son or daughter for driving safely and without tickets or accidents for an extended period of time. Remember that your child’s driver’s license is not a free pass to drive at will—YOU—and your child’s diabetic doctor–are in charge of when your teen drives. And, like me, I’m sure your child’s safety and well-being is your primary concern.
“Mom, please calm down…”
Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here. Some links on this blog may have been generated by outside sources are not necessarily endorsed by Kristyn Crow.