Nearly one in ten (8%) drivers are not sure of the safest way to drive around horses, according to new figures from the AA Driving School.
The figure rose to more than one in ten among young drivers aged 18-to-24 (13%) and drivers in London (12%).
Given the lack of knowledge among drivers it is perhaps unsurprising that one in twenty drivers (6%) admit to having had a ‘near-miss’ when passing a horse and rider.
The figures, from an AA/Populus poll*, also highlighted almost one in five drivers (17%) think that horses should not be allowed on roads at all.
Jim Kirkwood, managing director of AA Driving School, said: “All drivers, even those who predominantly drive in urban areas, should have a thorough understanding of how to safely navigate around all other road users.
“Horses are large and powerful animals, and whether or not you think they should be allowed on the roads, the fact is that to keep our roads safe drivers need to know how to navigate them properly.
“Learner drivers will not always come across a horse in their lessons, particularly if they live in an urban area, so it is important this topic is covered theoretically with a through understanding of the Highway Code.
“Many drivers will feel intimidated by a horse on the roads and understanding what to do, and why riders do certain things, will help keep frustrations at bay on both sides.”
The AA has added information to its website to give drivers advice on how best to drive around horses http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/safety/horses-and-drivers.html The call for awareness to be raised around horse safety came from three AA Driving School instructors (Emma Gatfield, Worcester, Jo Rawlins, Bristol, and Andrea Gordon, Staines) who felt there was not enough advice readily-available for drivers.
Emma said: “I live and work in a rural area and am a horse rider as well as a driver.
“Being able to see the issue from both sides made it clear to me that more could be done to try to help drivers understand what to do when they meet a horse on the roads.
“For learners it can be intimidating to suddenly be faced with a horse and rider and for riders it can be a scary experience if someone drivers irresponsibly around you.
“A bit of give and take on both sides and greater understanding means we can all share the roads safely.”
Andrea said: “Unless you already have some experience of horses and how they behave, it is easy to see why some drivers feel intimidated when they come across a horse.
“But drivers don’t need to become experts in horse behaviour; just a little understanding of what to do for the best when you do meet one on the roads would go a long way.
“Getting information out to drivers about what to do is really important and I hope that by speaking out we will achieve this.”
Jo said: “As well as being a driving instructor, I am also a road safety instructor for horse riders. “There has to be understanding on both sides so that the roads can be shared safely.
“Ultimately no driver or rider sets out on their journey wanting to have an accident and a bit of mutual understanding will go a long way to achieving that they do not.”
If you meet a horse on the road while driving: Slow right down and be ready to stop Give them a wide berth – at least a car’s width – and pass slowly Avoid any actions likely to spook the horse(s) - splashing them with puddles, sounding your horn or revving your engine for example Watch out for signals from the rider to slow down or stop Don’t expect all riders to raise their hand in thanks when you drive considerately – if it’s not possible to take a hand off their reins and maintain control most will smile or nod their thanks instead.
Accelerate gently once you have passed the horse