The third and final Grand Prize winner of this year's 2010 DiabetesMine Design Challenge is Barbara McClatchey, mother of teenage boy with diabetes living in Collierville, Tennessee. She's been a computer programmer for many years, and she and her husband both work for FedEx Corp. She's also been heavily involved in her local JDRF chapter for 11 years, serving on the Board of Directors for the past seven.

Barb was honored for her concept called Test Drive, a safeguard system to prevent diabetics from getting behind the wheel of a car when in danger of hypoglycemia:






The concept may be controversial, but the judges felt it had far-reaching potential to help PWDs. I discussed this with Barb last week:



DM) Barb, you obviously got this idea because of your own fears about your son, correct? 


BM) Yes, Ryan was diagnosed at age 7.  He's now about to enter college, six hours hours away from us at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, the exact opposite end of the state. I'm not happy about it. But I know other people have done it and come out OK.

Has he had any accidents or issues with lows while driving?

Thank goodness no. When he gets in the car, he'll say, 'I've tested recently enough.'  But what if he didn't?  He's a good kid, he stays out of trouble, makes good grades, but he's lazy about his diabetes. And what if others are even lazier? It's scary.

I think driving safety with diabetes is a big issue, especially among parents of new drivers. It's kind of a niche that needs to be addressed.

Some people, including myself, worry that 'Test Drive' could be seen as punitive — restricting the driving privileges of PWDs (people with diabetes). Isn't that a major obstacle to a system like this?


My intention is to save lives and keep people healthy, not to hold people hostage. I see it as a safety system for new drivers in particular, or people who might have hypoglycemic unawareness.

The judges mentioned expanded uses for this as well, like helping PWDs qualify for jobs that they're currently restricted from.  For example, my son will be starting off as a business major, and then attend Delta State Aviation college to get some type of Aviation Management Degree. He originally wanted to be a pilot, but couldn't because of the diabetes.

They say PWDs are not limited in job choices except in the military and as airline pilots — but in essence they're banned from all driving positions, including certain police positions. I can't quote statistics, but I know those limitations exist.

We thought it could be important for record-keeping as well, possibly for insurance or liability purposes?

Right. In the video, it mentions potential integration with the in-dash video display. Perhaps the CGM could communicate with the in-dash display {like Medtronic demonstrated at last year's ADA conference}. It  could be considered the same as the 'black box' people can now buy that records their speed, location, how fast they take turns, etc.

The way I understand it right now, anytime a diabetic is involved in a car accident, the burden of proof automatically falls on the PWD to prove that they weren't experiencing a low blood sugar that caused them to drive unsafely. A system like this would provide them with data proof that they were safe to set out.

This obviously isn't something you can build on your own, but how can you use your idea to make an impact for improved driving safety with diabetes?

Market research would be the first step.  The first thing to do would be to commission a study to get the real numbers on dangers and accidents due to hypoglycemia.

I was originally thinking more along the lines of marketing this to parents of teenagers who are new drivers. But we'd also need to look into the potential market for this as a tool to help eliminate barriers to jobs and use for record-keeping for insurance purposes. With HIPAA privacy restrictions, I don't know if it's possible to get that information.

What about working with the JDRF or other organizations to lobby the industry to help implement diabetes driving safeguards?

I think if the market research shows that this is a viable product to pursue, then I am absolutely on board and 100% there!



Thank you, Barb. We would most definitely encourage you to keep drawing attention to the oft-overlooked issue of driving safety with diabetes.



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