In today’s newspaper I read with dismay of a recent road rage incident where a horse rider was arrested and fined for throwing her riding whip at an inconsiderate motorist who put her and her horse in danger by sounding his car horn as he drove behind her on a narrow country lane.
It appears that the 18 year old ‘businessman’ (who passed his driving test less than a year ago) was driving his performance car at speed through narrow country lanes when he encountered Jessica Mills and her friend riding their horses side-by-side.
Jason Knox, the driver, followed the horses for about 30 seconds (driving just six feet away from the horses’ hind legs) before losing patience and sounding his horn as he pushed his way past. Miss Mills understandably lost her temper, shouted at Knox and threw her riding whip at his car as he passed. Knox apparently roared past them only to stop further along the road where he parked his car so as to obstruct them. He then got out of his vehicle and approached Miss Mills when a heated altercation took place.
Miss Mills told Knox that his driving was extremely inconsiderate and dangerous and could have caused an accident. Knox insisted that the riding whip had cracked his windscreen and damaged the bonnet of his car. Miss Mills told the court that the whip had actually bounced off the car’s roof and landed in a driveway. When Knox pointed out the damage to her she said that it was too low down to have been caused by her whip and looked as though it had occurred earlier. I have to say I find it hard to believe that a plastic riding whip would have even marked a car, let alone cracked a windscreen.
Unfortunately, the court sided with the prosecution and Miss Mills was fined £1,500 to cover the repairs to Knox’s vehicle. Knox, who it transpires already has 3 penalty points on his driving licence for using a mobile phone whilst driving, wrote a letter of apology to the riders for sounding his horn behind them but insisted that the damage to his car was caused by Miss Mills and that her reaction was totally out of proportion.
The court rejected Miss Mills’ defence that Knox was far too close to the horses and was impatiently revving his engine, ultimately sounding his horn at them and that her reaction was out of concern for the safety of her horse and was meant to draw the driver’s attention to the danger he was causing.
I was horrified when I read this story. I’ve had a number of similar incidents with impatient drivers trying to squeeze past me and my horse; gunning their engines and even hurling abuse at me. I suppose drivers are of the opinion that horse riders pay not road tax, aren’t legally obliged to be insured and therefore have no right to be on the road but that doesn’t excuse this sort of behaviour.
I always try to be courteous to drivers; acknowledge those that slow down and pass wide and move out of their way as quickly as I safely can. Most road users in the countryside are used to encountering horse riders and moderate their driving accordingly but there are a few who don’t. It always infuriates me as a driver myself when I pass horse riders who are chatting on their mobile phone, oblivious to traffic and hazards and who fail to acknowledge other road users’ courtesy.
My concern is that this incident effectively condones the driver’s impatient and dangerous actions and sets a depressing precedent for horse riders who have to use the roads in order to access bridleways. It was reported that that Mr Knox’s parents are wealthy local business people with influence. I do hope this had nothing to do with the court’s decision in this case.