Drivers with diabetes or epilepsy face a one-third higher risk of auto accidents than other people, probably because of the chance that they will black out and lose control of their cars, according to a study. Despite their findings, however, the researchers said they do not believe further restrictions should be put on the driving privileges of people with these common diseases.
All states require people with epilepsy to stay off the road for periods ranging from three months to two years after their last seizure. In most states, diabetic drivers also need letters from their doctors assuring that they are not prone to blackouts.
"There is a slight increase in risk for both epileptics and diabetics, but the increase is small enough that we didn't feel there was any great need to change current driving restrictions," said Dr. Phiroze Hansotia of the Marshfield Clinic, who directed the study.
However, in an editorial published with the study in last week's New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Julian A. Waller of the University of Vermont questioned this interpretation, especially for people with more severe forms of the diseases.
An estimated 14 million Americans have diabetes, and 2.5 million have epilepsy.