Their car is a lifeline for many older people as it helps keep them mobile, independent and connected to friends and family.

One in ten motorists aged 70 and over are not fit to drive and should give up their cars, a study revealed yesterday.

But a third of those who voluntarily stop driving are probably still safe to be on the roads, it was claimed.

The investigation, carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory for the RAC Foundation, was sparked by a spate of crashes involving elderly motorists, prompting calls for a better assessment of older licence-holders’ driving.

By law, motorists must declare whether or not they are fit to continue driving at the age of 70 and then every three years. There is no formal medical or driving test for them.

Experts say that around 50 000 of the estimated 500 000 motorists turning 70 this year will continue driving with poor levels of ability. Up to 170 000 are expected to stop driving too early.

There are 3.9-million licensed drivers in the UK aged 70 or over, but this number is set to increase dramatically. The Government has predicted that around ten million of the population alive today will reach their 100th birthday.

Professor Stephen Glaister, of the RAC Foundation, said: “Each year hundreds of thousands of drivers could be making the wrong decision about their ability to drive because they lack the tools or advice to adequately assess their skills behind the wheel.”

The report found that drivers’ self-assessment cannot replace a professional judgment of their ability behind the wheel.

Professor Glaister stressed that the RAC Foundation does not support compulsory re-testing but said drivers of all ages should “regularly consider their abilities.”

He added: “The Government has a responsibility not to exclude the elderly from society. They must make it easier for older drivers to make realistic choices about their abilities and keep them driving whenever possible.”

The report recommends a standardised question and answer check-list that all drivers could use to test whether they are still safe to drive. -Daily Mail