Back in March of this year, Austroads and the National Transport Commission released their updated Assessing Fitness to Drive; medical standards for licensing and clinical management guidelines. This document refers to commercial and private vehicle drivers, so the information is relevant to people living with diabetes that hold (or are planning to hold) a drivers’ licence.

I live in Victoria, so our licensing body – VicRoads – requires that I complete a medical review form every two years. This is done in consultation with my doctor, and the form asks about hypos, changes in eyesight and other issues that may impact on my ability to drive safely.

Because I’ve had few changes in my diabetes that have affected my driving, filling in and returning this form is a pretty straight-forward matter. As long as the completed form is returned to VicRoads by the due date, I’m given a ‘conditional licence’ and I’m good to drive for another two years.

So I was expecting that the new Assessing Fitness to Drive guidelines would not really need much consideration. The guidelines cover some important things about diabetes and driving. There’s information about hypoglycaemia and impaired hypo awareness and a rather confusing flowchart to explain the processes to getting a conditional licence.

But then, in the section titled Medical Standards for Licensing we come to section 3.3.2 Satisfactory control of diabetes which states:

When assessing whether the criteria for a conditional license are met, ‘satisfactory control’ of diabetes will generally be defined as a glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) of less than 9.0% measured within the preceding three months, as against a general goal of less than 7.0% in people with diabetes.

Whoa! What? Does this mean that if for any reason an individual’s HbA1c is above 9%, their treating doctor may refuse to complete the review? Well, apparently yes. I have been contacted by several people with diabetes who have had their licence suspended because their treating doctor refused to fill in the review based only on their above 9.0% HbA1c.

Where is the evidence suggesting that an elevated A1c will negatively impact on driving ability? I have searched and simply cannot find anything. Some people may experience blurry vision with elevated BGLs, but that is usually short-term, and ‘fixes itself’ once BGLs lower.

I can find a lot of journal articles about the danger of driving for those experiencing impaired hypo awareness. But nothing, nada, not a thing about driving with an A1c of 9.0%.

I’d like to know where that magic number came from. How is 9.0% deemed unsatisfactory control of diabetes, but not 8.8%? It appears to be an arbitrary number value that is having considerable impact on people with diabetes holding a drivers’ licence.

Disappointingly, there was no consultation in the development of these guidelines. Yes, the diabetes chapter of the guidelines were reviewed by the Australian Diabetes Society Driving and Diabetes Working Party. There was absolutely no engagement with any Diabetes Australia body across Australia. Which meant that there was no one considering the consumer side of things. All input has come from clinicians who, at times, have little understanding of ‘real life’.

Diabetes Australia is seeking clarification of these guidelines and I’ll keep you posted with what I find out. But in the meantime, if you have been unable to get your licence renewed because of these new guidelines, let your local Diabetes Australia office know.

Have you been affected by the new Assessing Fitness to Drive regulations? I would be interested to hear from anyone who has.