Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Road safety group calls for mandatory driver tests on rural roads


Garda Brendan Condon discussing the new rules and regulations
Garda Brendan Condon discussing the new rules and regulations

Siobhán English

The UK's road safety charity, Brake, has called for an overhaul of driver learning courses to include mandatory rural road tests.

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 its 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.

According to the British Horse Society 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.

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"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."

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 drink-drive 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."

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