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A charity has called for learner drivers to spend more time on rural roads to protect riders and other vulnerable road users.

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, spoke about the topic on BBC Essex’s breakfast show on 17 May.

IAM RoadSmart is a charity that works to make UK roads safer by improving driver skills through coaching and education.

Mr Greig said motorists need to be more aware of how to pass horses safely and said education at the early stages of learning to drive is key.

“In general, unfortunately, our rural roads are where people are most likely to die,” he said. “Across England it’s always rural roads that are the biggest problem, but unfortunately many learner drivers tend to stick to the roads around test centres and don’t get experience on rural roads until they’re doing it themselves.

“I think anything that gets more experience and knowledge of the risks on rural roads is going to help in general road safety as well as horse safety.”

Mr Greig said that he would also like to see rider road safety appear in more depth in theory tests, as well as a longer learning period.

“The current driving test is very good but it’s reached its limit,” he said.

“We think we need to be looking at the whole way we get young people to drive and we want to see a 12-month minimum learning period so you can’t just come in, quickly learn in a town or city and then pass your test.

“[Instead, drivers should] have to do a whole year, where you have to drive on rural roads, and motorways and town roads as well.

“They key research finding is that the more experience you have the safer you will be.”

Claire Lilly, Laura Thorogood and Dan Mander of Essex riding road safety group Canewdon’s Equestrian also took part in the radio show.

The trio spoke about their group’s ongoing work to improve road safety for riders in the area and calls to lower the speed limit on Canewdon and Larkhill Road.

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Laura’s horse Angel was killed in a road accident in the area in November last year.

The driver, Bryony Donovan, of Coopers Avenue, Heybridge, was sentenced at Colchester Magistrates’ Court on 5 April.

She pleaded guilty to the charge of driving without due care and attention and was fined £260 and given five points on her licence, as well as being ordered to pay costs and a victim surcharge.