Mo­torists un­aware of horse risk

Road safety group calls for manda­tory driver train­ing on ru­ral roads, writes Siob­hán Eng­lish

Irish Independent - Farming - - ROAD SAFETY -

EAR­LIER this year, the Farm­ing In­de­pen­dent car­ried an ex­ten­sive fea­ture on rider and road safety and en­cour­ag­ing all road users to show re­spect for one an­other.

While horse rid­ing on the road is per­fectly le­gal, a con­sid­er­able num­ber of driv­ers are sadly still un­aware of the cor­rect way to ap­proach riders and quite of­ten do not al­low am­ple space when over­tak­ing on the road.

Ac­cord­ing to BHS Rid­ing and Road Safety chief ex­am­iner Anne O’Con­nor, it all comes down to re­spect and knowl­edge from both riders and driv­ers.

“What driv­ers do not re­alise is that horses and riders have ev­ery right to be on our roads,” she said. “This is backed up in the pub­li­ca­tion of the Horse Road Safety Book­let, which is read­ily avail­able on the Road Safety Au­thor­ity (RSA) web­site.

“It is their duty of care that driv­ers give wide berths when pass­ing out and that they drive slowly. So many driv­ers do not ac­tu­ally un­der­stand that horses are flight an­i­mals.

“They also do not re­alise the dam­age a horse can do if it is struck by a ve­hi­cle — not only to the ve­hi­cle it­self, but also the oc­cu­pants.”

In light of a num­ber of se­ri­ous ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing horses and car users in the UK, the Bri­tish road safety char­ity Brake is now call­ing on their gov­ern­ment to in­clude ru­ral roads in driv­ing tests for all young driv­ers, some­thing that could soon fol­low suit in Ire­land.

Ac­cord­ing to the Bri­tish Horse So­ci­ety, which also over­sees one of two of the rid­ing and road safety cour­ses here in Ire­land, in the five years from 2010 to 2015 there were 2,000 re­ported road in­ci­dents in the UK in­volv­ing horses.

Of these, 36 caused rider deaths, and 181 re­sulted in a horse dy­ing from their in­juries or be­ing put to sleep.

Ja­son Wake­ford, di­rec­tor of cam­paigns for Brake, said: “High speeds, sharp bends, nar­row lanes, risky over­tak­ing and the pres­ence of vul­ner­a­ble road users like cy­clists, make ru­ral roads the most dan­ger­ous by far. The com­bi­na­tion of ru­ral roads and novice driv­ers is lethal — a stag­ger­ing 80pc of all young car driver fa­tal­i­ties oc­cur in ru­ral lo­ca­tions.

“Brake is call­ing for a to­tal over­haul of the learn­ing to drive sys­tem to help cut fa­tal­i­ties and in­juries. A grad­u­ated li­cens­ing sys­tem, in­clud­ing a min­i­mum learn­ing pe­riod, manda­tory train­ing on ru­ral roads and re­stric­tions for newly-qual­i­fied


driv­ers — such as a zero drinkdrive limit — will al­low new driv­ers to build up more skills and ex­pe­ri­ence over a longer pe­riod of time.

“This ap­proach has dra­mat­i­cally re­duced road ca­su­al­ties in coun­tries in­clud­ing Aus­tralia and New Zealand and could save some 400 lives a year if im­ple­mented in the UK.”

Ru­ral roads are the most dan­ger­ous by far

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