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Issue 120 Item 13 Mississippians Tagged for DIABETES

May 4, 2002
 

A new Mississippi license plate will make it less likely that law enforcement will mistake a diabetic suffering from low blood sugar for a drunken driver. Their symptoms often mimic those of someone who is drunk. And without medical attention, they could easily become seriously ill.

But a newly-designed Mississippi license plate will make it less likely that law enforcement will mistake a diabetic suffering from low blood sugar for a drunken driver.

Officials with the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi unveiled the new tag at a news conference. The tag is a joint effort of the Mississippi Legislature, the State Tax Commission and the Diabetes Foundation. The main benefit of the license plate, Diabetes Foundation Executive Vice President Mary Fortune said, is that law enforcement officers, emergency personnel and others can be alerted to the potential for special needs before they approach the driver of the vehicle.

This early awareness could possibly save the driver’s life in emergency situations, Fortune said.

Too little sugar in the blood can cause a person with diabetes to go into insulin shock. Symptoms include confusion; sometimes aggressive, hostile behavior; and a pale appearance with sweating, rapid pulse, shallow breathing and possibly trembling. Faintness and weakness are also warning signs.

About 322,000 Mississippians suffer from diabetes. Of those, 82,000 don’t realize they have diabetes.

"I think the special license plates are a very important tool to assist law enforcement identifying those drivers who have diabetes and whose symptoms might be confused with those who are under the influence of alcohol or other substance," Hinds County Sheriff Malcolm McMillin said.

Fortune said the foundation is also offering to teach departments how to administer emergency glucose to people having diabetic crises. Fortune said she hopes the tags will raise awareness about diabetes.

"Diabetes is Mississippi’s No. 1 health problem," Fortune said. "It costs our state over $2 billion dollars annually in direct and indirect costs. In terms of human suffering, it is devastating."