Government responds as road safety petition tops 13,000 signatures

  • Support for a petition that would make driving safely around horses a mandatory part of the driving test continues to grow — and the Government has now responded.

    Rosie Margarson, 26, started the petition as part of her push to improve safety for horses and riders on the roads and has welcomed the response.

    “I’m pleased we’ve been given a response and can confirm, having spoken with the BHS, [British Horse Society] more is continuing to be done,” Rosie told H&H today (21 May).

    “The petition wasn’t just for a government response, it was to raise awareness, get people talking and get the message to people outside the equestrian community and it has done that.

    “I will continue to make noise regarding driving responsibly around horses because it’s a situation that won’t change overnight, but if we can all keep pushing and sharing stories, hopefully the message will continue to get through and we can at least have educated more people who wouldn’t have known.”

    Rosie, who rides for her father trainer George Margarson in Newmarket, noticed just how often she was having near misses with vehicles at horse crossings in the town when she watched her daily hat-cam footage.

    She has pushed the issue on social media, to raise awareness outside the equestrian world about the dangers, including speaking to a haulage firm that has since circulated a map of horse crossings in the town to its drivers to highlight where to look out for horses.

    She has also contacted the council, her MP, Matt Hancock, and the Jockey Club, which owns the training grounds in Newmarket and has worked to improve road safety in the area.

    “How horses, riders and cars interact is an area we have been working to improve for a number of years in all of the training centres which we operate, co-ordinating with the BHS amongst other organisations,” Nick Patton, managing director of Jockey Club Estates, told H&H.

    “Ultimately road safety falls under the remit of local councils with whom we work closely and some progress has been made, such as the traffic lights on the Cambridge Road. However, more can be done and we would support anything which may bring about further improvements for equine highway users throughout the country, as the safety of our participants is paramount.”

    Suffolk County Council has not responded to H&H’s requests for comment.

    The Department for Transport (DfT) yesterday (Thursday, 20 May) responded to Rosie’s petition, which has been signed by more than 13,000 people in less than two weeks.

    The petition calls for drivers to be tested on how they would approach any situation involving a horse, ridden or loose.

    It added: “If they do not show they know how to safely do so this should be deemed a serious or dangerous fault, and they should not be given their licence.”

    The DfT responded, stating that driving safely around horses is covered in the theory and hazard perception test.

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    “All candidates are assessed on awareness, anticipation and planning skills, which are needed if driving around horses,” it states.

    “A number of questions in the car theory test directly ask about horse riders.

    In September 2020, theory test case studies were replaced with video clips, one of which involves an encounter with a ridden horse. There are also several available hazard perception clips relating to horses.

    “Every candidate is assessed on their ability to show awareness, anticipation and planning skills during the practical driving test by demonstrating how they deal with all road users they encounter during their test, which may include horses, vulnerable road users, smaller vehicles and cyclists.

    “The practical driving test is conducted in a live environment; therefore, it is not possible for every candidate to experience a situation involving driving around horses. If a candidate does encounter a horse while on test, their ability to deal with the situation will be assessed. If they fail to deal with it appropriately, an assessment is made on how far from the expected outcome the candidate was.

    “In December 2017, changes were made to the practical driving test that allowed for test routes to go further afield and take in more high speed and high-risk roads, particularly country roads and rural locations. As these areas are more likely to contain horses, the opportunity to encounter a horse on test has increased.”

    It states that the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency has worked with the BHS and in 2020 the Government consulted the public on changes to the Highway Code, which H&H has previously reported on.

    “The aim is to introduce an updated Highway Code in 2021 that will improve safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders. The Highway Code is a source for national driving standards and all future driving theory and practical tests,” it concluded.

    At 100,000 signatures, the petition will be considered for debate in Parliament.

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