Aging baby boomers--a blessing or challenge for driver licensing authorities

Traffic Inj Prev. 2008 Aug;9(4):379-86. doi: 10.1080/15389580802045823.


Introduction: In less than 5 years, the first wave of baby boomers will begin turning 65, with the last wave of boomers entering their senior years in January 2029. Currently, boomers make up a significant percentage of the population in Canada, the United States, and other developed countries. The baby boom generation has had a profound impact on our society over the last six decades, and this large cohort will continue to exert its influence for several decades to come. Central to this article is the rapid growth in the number of persons 65 years of age and older, beginning in 2011, with a corresponding increase in the number of older drivers. The demographic shift has important implications for licensing authorities, the regulatory bodies charged with licensing and 'fitness to drive' decisions.

Objectives: The objectives of this paper are to summarize the published scientific literature on licensing policies and procedures currently in use for older drivers, discuss their limitations, and provide recommendations for meeting the upcoming challenges of an aging baby boomer population of drivers.

Method: Online searches were conducted using the following databases: PsycINFO, MEDLINE, Scopus, and TRIS. Google and Google Scholar also were searched for scientific articles. References identified from database and online searches were examined for relevant articles.

Results: A number of studies have investigated the utility of different licensing policies and procedures for identifying older drivers who may be at risk for impaired driving performance. Overall, results suggest that current policies and procedures are ineffective in identifying high-risk older drivers. The results also emphasize the need for a different approach for the identification of high risk older drivers by licensing agencies. Recommendations to assist with that goal are provided.

Conclusions: The aging of the baby boomer population, combined with the projected high crash rates for this cohort of drivers as it moves through the senior years, underscores the need for cost-effective, accurate, and efficient methods for identifying and assessing the subgroup of older drivers whose driving has declined to an unsafe level. That subgroup consists of individuals with medical conditions (and treatments) affecting driving performance. The demographic shift has been a blessing for licensing authorities in that it has created awareness of the need for a reexamination of licensing policies and procedures designed to identify those older drivers who may no longer be safe to drive. If that awareness becomes translated into effective policies and procedures that appropriately target the medically at-risk/impaired older driver rather than the older driver per se, the result will be an increase in the safety and mobility of the older driving population and increased public safety overall. However, a continued focus on older drivers rather than medically at-risk drivers will result in a costly, ineffective, and overburdened system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control*
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Alberta
  • Automobile Driver Examination / statistics & numerical data*
  • Automobile Driving / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Automobile Driving / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Licensure / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Licensure / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Policy Making
  • Risk Assessment
  • Safety / statistics & numerical data*