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DVLA changes to driving regulations from January 1st 2018
Changes to the law concerning medical fitness to drive for diabetes mellitus are to take effect from January 1st 2018. The amendments on diabetes reflect developments in the diagnosing and treatment of diabetes since the 2006 Directive came into force.
The change to regulations applies to group 1 drivers only. The EU directive specifies blood testing for group 2 drivers (but not for group 1) and consequently the DVLA has not considered making a change for group 2 drivers in these regulations.
Hypoglycaemia while asleep
Until these changes, there has been no distinction is made between hypoglycaemia experienced while awake or while asleep but the new rules now state that hypoglycaemia should not be classified as severe when it occurs during sleep because it is more difficult to recognise the warning symptoms and to treat the event appropriately. Applicants or drivers cannot demonstrate an understanding of the risk and adequate control of the condition while asleep, so it is considered unfair to continue with the current rules. The new regulations will apply only to hypoglycaemia experienced while awake.
Three Month Period
The current rules do not permit driving for those who suffer recurrent, severe hypoglycaemias within a rolling 12 month period. This can result in a wait of close to 12 months for the first episode to drop out of the 12 month period. The new rules now state that this time span is no longer medically justified and a 3-month period after the most recent of the two episodes experienced within 12 months would be a more appropriate duration.
The effect of the new regulations is that if a person suffers two or more episodes of hypoglycaemia while awake within a 12 month period, their licence will be refused or revoked, unless they have been free of hypoglycaemia for the last three months. If the licence is refused or revoked, driving entitlement can be restored once that person has been free of hypoglycaemia for a 3-month period.
There is an additional measure in the regulations that does not stem from the EU directive. The current regulations require group 1 drivers to undertake appropriate blood glucose monitoring. There are now methods available commonly described under the heading ‘Continuous Glucose Monitoring Systems (CGMS), which measure the glucose level in interstitial fluid (a bodily fluid), but the specific reference to “blood glucose” in legislation precludes the use of these methods for driver licensing purposes.
The new regulations remove this restriction by replacing the requirement for “appropriate blood glucose monitoring” with “appropriate monitoring to assess glucose levels and any risk of hypoglycaemia.”
These new regulations do not mean that alternatives to the ‘finger prick’ blood test are automatically permitted. The new regulations enable alternative methods to be considered, but decisions will be made as to which methods are appropriate in consultation with the medical advisory panel.
At this point, no method other than the blood test has been deemed appropriate, so the current rules on glucose monitoring will not change on 1 January. Should this change, the DVLA will amend their guidance accordingly.
DVLA provides guidance for the medical profession “Assessing Fitness to Drive” available at: www.gov.uk/dvla/fitnesstodrive