With miles to go – driving with diabetes

On Friday, I took a four hour road trip by myself. Traffic wasn’t too bad and the weather was a combination of beautiful and dangerous. With that much time to myself, I started thinking about driving with diabetes.

winter drivingI really don’t like to drive, so if there is any other option on a road trip, I’d prefer to be the passenger. This is only a problem because of how much I like traveling and visiting new locations. It has nothing to do with diabetes; even years before I was diagnosed, I avoided getting my driver’s license as long as possible.

I started the road trip on Friday right after lunch, so my blood sugar was safely on the upswing. I put the CGM receiver in the door handle for easy access like I do on all road trips (I also cued up a couple of episodes of Just Talking).

I discovered a few weeks back that Pepsi Max contains twice the caffeine amount of Diet Pepsi, and somewhat excessive consumption in the car kept me awake on the trip but also required a few extra bathrooms stops. Bathrooms stops = convenience stores = snack foods. The stops also gave me the opportunity to double check my blood sugar and calibrate the CGM. The graph truly was holding steady.

driving with diabetes

While I was thankful that I was having good blood sugar luck on this trip, I know that this isn’t always the case. I was obsessively checking my graph so I would treat or find a place to stop at the first sign of trouble. I had multiple fast acting sugar options in the car as well as replacement sites, sets, and sensors (remember that time I changed a sensor in my car at a gas station in the middle of nowhere?)

Other than my preferred option of finding someone else to do the driving, what are your techniques for managing your diabetes on long road trips?


  • I’m like you – I’d rather someone else drive. I also avoided getting my license as long as possible (I took driver’s ed when I was 17…because it was the ‘thing to do’…….but I didn’t get my license until a year ago. I’m 27.

    Honestly, the only long trips I’ve ever driven on have been with other people – so even if I am driving, the lucky passenger can check my BG for me on my outstretched hand if I need them to. Driving ALONE on a long trip is not something I want to do – especially because I don’t have a CGM.

  • Sara, maybe it’s a Mars-Venus thing, but I’ve always loved to drive. Except for work… thank God for public transportation (which carries its own set of issues).

    In either case, the thing is that I’m often on my own from a diabetes perspective, so I need to bring everything with me, including meter and insulin, at least one extra reservoir & set, extras to treat lows, and documentation that I am in fact a PWD. Oh, and definitely a plan for lows, and contact information, ’cause you never know when you’ll need it.

    Sounds like a lot, but it’s necessary, and to an extent, puts my mind at ease so I can enjoy the trip!

  • I’m with Stephen. I love to road-trip, although I’ve done less of it with the state of gas-prices lately (sadly, I was ecstatic to fill up yesterday at $3.32/gal in NJ after seeing it for sale at $3.99/gal in NY the day before, but that’s a different topic).

    Diabetes doesn’t really play a role in my driving habits at all. I keep a jar of glucose tabs in the glove compartment (and, for longer trips, take other snacks with me too). For really long trips, I might bump up my basal by 15% or so due to inactivity, but that’s really it. My CGM is my pump, so it’s always with me, and I often test while driving. (TESTING while driving is not as dangerous as TEXTING while driving I think, but is still not a good idea.)

  • I’m usually the driver between me + my hubby but I haven’t really made a long trip by myself. Beside being prepared with low blood sugar options and monitoring blood sugar whichever way is convenient, I’m not sure there is any better way to handle it. I wish we could be like Charlie Kimball + have our CGMs planted right on the steering wheel 😉

  • I’m with George – but I keep the windows closed.
    My “cubby” thing in the door has several pkgs. of Skittles along with a breakfast bar thing (although it’s somewhat squished right now). Can’t keep juice there in the winter as it freezes.
    For long trips Dexcom sits out where I can see it.
    And – I’ve definitely done my share of pulling over into a rest area to check my bg with the meter, when necessary.

  • I do several 900 mi. trips a year and have since 1990. I just barely eat and check bg every hour and adjust. Since cutting out the 4 to 6 liters of diet cola on those trips, I have to choose to pit stop, instead of being forced to. I should try to set a temp basal, will have to talk to my endo before my May trip.

  • So I have a fully functional pancreas so Im commenting in regards to how I help my kids manage their less than functional pancreases. First – I drive. If you go on a road trip with me – I have one rule – I drive. Ok I have other rules too but the most important one is that I drive.

    As far as managing my kids sugars while on a long drive (3+ hours) – I increase basal about an hour before because sitting idle for 3+ hours increases their sugars. I also pack healthy snacks to avoid the desire to binge eat from convenience stores or fast food places. This doesn’t always work – sometimes the cut carrots, fresh fruit, and whole wheat sandwiches rot in the cooler as we gobble down chic-fil-a and cheetos.

    I have the kids check every two hours or so to be sure sugars aren’t creeping up due to lack of movement. Also – all the sibling bickering seems to raise sugars and my blood pressure.

    Road trips rock – clearly if you’re not a fan you need to go on a road trip with me – minus the kids.

  • I’m with you, I’d almost always rather be the passenger than the driver. (We would not make good road-trip buddies. 🙁 Sad!!) When I am driving alone, my plan is to run myself a bit higher than I normally would to avoid a low. And if I feel at all low but can’t pull over to confirm, I just treat. Also, if my CGM says I’m low but I don’t feel low, I just treat. I’d rather correct it back down later.

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