Training Police to Recognize Diabetic Drivers

By Brenda Flanagan

A video shows a diabetic, moaning while New Jersey State Police handcuff him along Route 72 in Woodland Township where he’d pulled over after feeling disoriented. The trooper’s car camera rolls.

“I really need sugar,” said the driver. The trooper replied, “You need sugar, huh?” The driver said, “Yeah.”

The diabetic asking for sugar was Dan Fried. He got belligerent and got arrested.

“When I opened my eyes, I was in the back of a police car, with my hands cuffed behind me, laying on my broken wrist,” Fried said.

The video shows the trooper saying, “I’ve got to get an ambulance out here for him. He said he needs sugar, insulin and all that crap.”

Police did call an ambulance. By then, Fried’s blood sugar had tanked to dangerously low levels.

“You know what, bud? If this was all about a dose of sugar you may have needed or something like that, this could’ve all been avoided by you just saying, ‘I’m a diabetic. I need sugar,'” the trooper said. “I did say that,” responded Fried. “No, you didn’t say that. No, you didn’t say that at all,” said the trooper.

We asked Fried about police behavior toward diabetics. Ironically, he’s a TV producer who created a training video about diabetes for police departments.

“It’s obviously hard for them to break the cycle of assuming first and foremost that people are under the influence,” Fried said. “It’s one thing when you come in contact with someone who is clearly drunk, falling down belligerent or in a fight, in a situation that’s out of control. But a lot of these are not that.”

If you’re thinking there ought to be a law, there is. In New Jersey, you can indicate you’re diabetic on your driver’s license. And medical experts have another recommendation.

“I ask all my patients to have some sort of an ID on you to tell a policeman you’re hypoglycemic, or anyone else who comes upon you,” said Dr. Joseph Giangola, the medical director of diabetes at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Diabetics also need to be pro-active. Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, sent more than 280,000 adults to U.S. emergency rooms in 2011.

A diabetic with low sugar can feel shaky, nervous and irritable, confused, dizzy, sleepy, with blurred vision, angry, stubborn. Ultimately it could kill them. Nurse educators have recommendations.

“Have something in the car you could treat it with. We train the kids always have juice, sugar tablets, something in the car,” said Kathe Oloham, advanced practice nurse at Hackensack University Medical Center.

And check your blood sugar before you drive anywhere. Fried does. He also sued the State Police, who did not comment on the case.