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Tuesday, 7 March, 2000, 15:59 GMT
Diabetic drivers 'treated unfairly'
Insulin
Drivers on insulin face restrictions
An influential committee of MPs says there is not enough evidence to support draconian rules preventing some diabetics holding driving licences.

The House of Commons' Science and Technology Committee called for more research into the effect of insulin treatment on driving ability and said that "policy anomalies" currently existed.



The current position for insulin-treated drivers vehicles is not supported by evidence and includes policy anomalies

Dr Michael Clark, MP
It also expressed surprise at the absence of statistics on the number of road accidents which involve diabetic drivers and said a monitoring system needed to be put in place.

Investigations by the body which advises the government on the issue - the Honorary Medical Advisory Panel on Diabetes Mellitus - should be more open to promote public confidence, the committee said in a report.

Diabetes affects 1.4m people in the UK, 10% of whom need to treat their condition with insulin. A side-effect of this treatment is hypoglycaemia which can cause irrational behaviour, confusion and, in extreme cases, unconsciousness.

Banned

Currently people with insulin-treated diabetes are barred from driving vehicles over 3.5 tonnes and Passenger Carrying Vehicles. The committee says this blanket ban is "illogical, inconsistent and arbitrary".

Chairman of the committee Dr Michael Clark, MP, said: "Driving is an important, valued freedom but with the right to drive comes the responsibility to drive safely. Striking the appropriate balance between the need to improve road safety and the right to drive is a difficult judgement.

"The current position for insulin-treated drivers, particularly for heavy, Group II, vehicles is not supported by evidence and includes policy anomalies which have caused hardship for some individuals."

There needed to be more communication with organisations such as the British Diabetic Association (BDA), he said.



The blanket ban approach is not supported by evidence and is discriminatory

Benet Middleton, British Diabetic Association
And he added: "The committee was astonished to find that statistics on the incidence of road accidents involving diabetic drivers have not been kept."

Its recommendations would be cheap to implement but would lead to rules based on firm evidence and "avoid curious anomalies", he added.

Benet Middleton, director of policy and communications at the BDA, welcomed the report.

She said: "The British Diabetic Association has campaigned long and hard for driving licences to be issued on the basis of an individual assessment of a person's fitness to drive.

"The blanket ban approach is not supported by evidence and is discriminatory."

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