THE average British driver is ageing, with a record four million people aged over 70 now holding licences, a motoring group revealed today.
The Royal Automobile Club Foundation said road safety would be boosted as the number of older drivers increased against a downward trend among younger, more crash-prone motorists.
The foundation said the over-75s accounted for 6 per cent of drivers but only 4.3 per cent of deaths and serious injuries.
By contrast, under-21s comprised 2.5 per cent of drivers but 13 per cent of such casualties.
A spokesman said: “Younger drivers are disproportionately likely to die on the roads so a rebalancing of the driving population should improve road safety.”
The decline in the proportion of young people with licences over the last two decades has been linked with increasing motoring costs.
Figures from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency showed there were 4,018,900 people over the age of 70 with full licences in July, including 191 over 100. The oldest was a 107-year-old woman.
Once people reach 70 they must declare whether or not they are fit to drive every three years, without having to take a driving or medical examination.
Concerns have been raised that some elderly people could be continuing to drive when they are not fit to do so. In the United States and Australia this is estimated to be one in ten such drivers.
However, others give up their cars too early and risk exclusion from services and activities.
Research charity Rica – with support from the foundation – has published a guide to help older people understand the law and find out what modifications they can make to their vehicles and driving habits to keep them on the road for longer.
Driving Safely for Life also offers advice to elderly people about how best to assess driving capabilities, and how to cope if they do stop driving.
Professor Stephen Glaister, the foundation’s director, said: “All drivers should regularly consider their fitness to drive, but matters come to a head when we reach 70 and have to declare that we should be on the roads.
“In general, older drivers have an enviable safety record, but many simply do not have a realistic view of their capabilities.”
Learner drivers are being urged to make sure their instructor is operating legally after dozens have been convicted for not having the correct licence, The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) has said.
The warning comes after more than 123 people have been arrested for offences relating to illegal driving instruction in the last four years.
Of those 39 were convicted and 31 received police cautions, the DSA said.
Police have warned getting into a car with an unlicensed instructor who has not undergone the obligatory criminal background check is as dangerous as getting into an unlicensed minicab.