Older drivers need to take control of their driving safety and ask healthcare professionals if they are safe to continue behind the wheel, according to the AA Charitable Trust, as it reveals there are now more than one million drivers over the age of 80 on the road.

Research shows that only a third of doctors give unprompted advice about whether a prescription will affect driving ability to patients aged over 55.

The AA Charitable Trust wants drivers to make sure they speak to their doctor, pharmacist, optician (or other relevant professional) if they are unsure about a prescription’s affect on their driving ability. Drivers should also make sure they ask whether any conditions or changes in their health mean they should stop driving.

The warning comes on the International Day of Older Persons and as new AA/Populus research shows the majority (62 per cent) of over 55s agree having a car is extremely important for people in their seventies and eighties.

The research also showed that 71 per cent of drivers worry about the safety of people in their seventies and eighties who are still driving. But, statistically older drivers have a generally good road safety record. Official figures show 318 drivers aged over-80 were killed or seriously injured in 2011, fewer than in any other age group.

Older people can be more likely to be subject to fatigue, but there are steps that can be taken to diminish this risk such as avoiding driving after eating heavy meals, taking exercise or at a time they would usually be asleep.

There are now more than one million drivers in the UK who are over 80 and, with an ageing population, this is only going to increase.

Edmund King, director of the AA Charitable Trust, said: “We want people to be able to drive as safely as possible, for as long as possible.

“Provided you are in good health and have kept your driving skills up to date, there is no reason why a driver in their seventies, eighties or older, should be any less safe than a younger driver.

“But, drivers need to take control and not expect doctors and other health professionals to volunteer information about whether conditions or prescriptions will affect driving ability.”

The AA Charitable Trust offers a free two-hour course through the AA Driving School, called Drive Confident, for drivers of all ages to brush up their skills.

Recent customer research shows 84 per cent of over-65s who have taken the course felt safer afterwards and 83 per cent felt more confident.

Nearly half (45 per cent) have also started to drive in new situations since taking the course, such as busy roundabouts (71 per cent), parking (65 per cent), unfamiliar areas (53 per cent) and alone (47 per cent).

Overall, the most common age groups to seek help with their driving though a refresher or confidence course were those aged between 31 and 40 (21 per cent) and 61 and 70 (21 per cent).

One of the older drivers who took the course said: “I had completely lost confidence in driving, even though I knew I have the skills. It had become a phobia. The driving confidence course was the best thing that I ever did.”

Another explained they signed up for the course “because of my age I wanted to know that my driving skills were still good as I didn’t what to be a danger to others and myself”.

King added: “Having a car is a vital lifeline for many older drivers. The fact that many older drivers have taken a course to help their confidence and skills shows they have a responsible attitude to driving – partly explaining why they are less likely to be involved in an accident than young drivers.

“There is a lot to be said for being able to ask for some advice and guidance from professionals, especially when it comes to staying safe on the roads.”