The Risks of Licensing Persons with Diabetes to Drive Trucks

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Abstract

The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act forbids employers to bar disabled persons from jobs unless employers can show the disabled person cannot perform the tasks. The Federal Highway Administration will not license persons with diabetes mellitus to drive commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce. These individuals may experience severe hypoglycemia, greatly increasing their risk of losing control of the truck. This prohibition is currently being reexamined. We describe the disease process leading to severe hypoglycemia and its physical manifestations. To quantify the risks of licensing persons with diabetes to use insulin, we first estimate the number of potential insulin-using drivers. We estimate that 1420 insulin-using persons would seek licenses in the United States if they were permitted to do so (920 noninuslin dependent and 500 insulin dependent). Next, we estimate the annual incidence of mild and severe hypoglycemia in these populations. The third step is to estimate the number of hypoglycemic episodes while driving. Estimating the likelihood of a crash due to a mild or severe hypoglycemic episode is the fourth step. We estimate that an additional 42 crashes each year would occur if insulin using persons were licensed to drive commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce (20 from insulin dependent and 22 from non-insulin dependent drivers).

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