94% Of drivers demand 'driving tests' for horse riders: Should they become a reality?

Call for proficiency test for riders to help stem horse-related accidents

A huge number of road users want horse riders to take some sort of equine driving test before they are allowed on the public roads, it seems.

According to a national car leasing company, drivers think that the increasing number of young riders means that there should be some sort of minimum standard of horsemanship before taking to roads in both country and urban settings.

It’s a view that’s back by some riders, says the Flexed.co.uk company, that comes with a demand that drivers are more rigorously tested on dealing with horses and other animals during their driving test.

“Who hasn’t been stuck behind a line of horses when driving down a country road?” asks Flexed.co.uk spokesman Johnny Ratcliffe. “It’s momentarily annoying, which results in hostility between both parties.

“It’s only right that both drivers and horse riders are taught how to share the road responsibly.”

Sections 49 to 55 of the Highway Code deal with the riding of horses on public roads, with certain rules (such as the wearing of hard hats and the prohibition of riding on the pavement) backed up by law. However, the majority of the Highway Code’s single page on horses is only advisory, and riders do not even have to prove they or their animals are “roadworthy”.

Flexed.co.uk asked over 1200 drivers and found:

  • 94% said that horse riders should take some sort of legally-binding proficiency test
  • 70% thought horse riders should have – at the very least – third party insurance before riding on public roads
  • 58% of drivers said that Highway Code advice telling riders to avoid busy roads and roundabouts should come under the law

Flexed.co.uk acknowledges that these figures may represent road users’ prejudice against riders due to their ‘nuisance value’ and extra care they need when passing.

“These people are just as entitled to use the public roads as any car, bus or lorry,” says Ratcliffe, “But with children as young as 12 years old riding a horse in traffic, you can see why there are calls for enforceable training.”

This is reflected in quotes from drivers:

  • “Sometimes it’s just kids up there. Would they know what to do if their horse bolted into traffic? It’s cruel on the horses, if anything,” said one car user.
  • Another told us: “I’ve got no problem with horse riders – I give them respect and a wide berth and they’ve only held me up for half a minute at most. But you’ve got to worry about training and insurance these days, haven’t you?”
  • One lorry driver was openly hostile: “Why should these toffs and their snooty offspring have right of way? Roads are for cars, make them stick to the fields.”

Despite this attitude, Flexed spoke to horse riders and stable owners and found appetite for better training if it helped to soothe relations with other road users.

  • “Oh yes,” one stable owner told Flexed.co.uk, “You hear terrible things about riders going off down main roads without a second thought. They’re asking for trouble.”
  • Another experienced rider said: “Quite a few of us have equine insurance. Millions in coverage if there’s an accident, God forbid. And it’s right that riders ought to be trained properly before mixing with cars. Some drivers are such idiots.”
  • Finally, one younger rider told us: “I’ll take a test if car owners take a test on driving near horses. Fair’s fair.”

Flexed says that it’s time for a new approach to road safety, particularly in the countryside.
“We’ve all got to use the same roads,” says Flexed’s Johnny Ratcliffe, “Let’s use them with patience and sanity to avoid these confrontations.”

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