Drunk driving is a serious problem in Southern Californian, but according to Los Angeles DUI attorney, Lawrence Taylor, known nationally as the “Dean of DUI Attorneys”, a number of people with diabetes are accused and falsely convicted of drunk driving. Taylor reports, “roughly one in seven sober drivers on the road suffers from diabetes.”
Law enforcement officers are trained to be alert for drunk drivers and to recognize the symptoms of alcohol impairment. Suspected drunk drivers can be asked to perform certain tasks to help determine if a driver has physical and mental impairments. They may also be given a breathalyzer test.
Diabetics can experience moderate to severe symptoms from low or high blood sugar that mimic alcohol intoxication even while being stone-cold sober. And, excessively high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) creates ketones in the body that can smell sweet, like fermentation on the breath, and ketones can register as alcohol on a breathalyzer test.
All diabetics who uses insulin or oral medications to lower blood sugar can experience hypoglycemia, a potentially life-threatening condition where sugar in the blood stream drops too low.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia include feeling shaky or dizzy, inability to concentrate, changes in vision, slurring of speech, loss of physical coordination, nausea and vomiting. Hypoglycemia can also cause a person to be disoriented and combative. Untreated, hypoglycemia can lead to coma and death.
A driver experiencing hypoglycemia may drive erratically or cause an accident. Because the symptoms of blood sugar problems are very similar to those of being drunk, it is easy to see how a police officer could make the wrong assumption.
To help protect yourself from being falsely accused of drunk driving:
- Check your blood sugar before you drive. If you are too low, have a snack and do not attempt to drive until your blood sugar has stabilized.
- On long car trips, stop and check your blood sugar every hour.
- Have the DMV list “diabetic” on your driver’s license.
- Always have medical information with you explaining that you have diabetes. Emergency personnel will look for medical information in your glove box or tucked into the visor, or in your purse or wallet.
- Wear a diabetic medical alert bracelet or other form of identification. You can also hang medical alert jewelry from your rear view mirror.
In California, you can lose your license if you have diabetes and your blood sugars contribute to an accident. If you have diabetes and are pulled over and questionedabout whether or not you have been drinking, be sure to tell the officer that you have diabetes and ask to check your blood sugars.