Now we all know that driving with your cell phone to talk to someone or to text someone is not the wisest thing to be doing.  There are 14 states that prohibit all drivers from using cell phones and you can get a ticket for doing it.  Thirty eight states prohibit use of cell phones by novice drivers and twenty states prohibit use by school bus drivers.  Forty six states ban text messaging for all drivers.

What is distracted driving (using cell phones)?

Distracted driving is any activity that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, or your mind off of your primary task of driving safely, potentially endangering the driver, passenger, and bystander safety.  Some forms of distracted driving include:   texting, using a cell phones or smartphones, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading, including maps, using a navigation system, watching a video, adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player.

With that said, if you are driving your horse and carriage on any public road, paved or gravel, you are required to follow all of the driving rules that you would normally follow if you are driving a motor vehicle.  When driving your horse and carriage you always drive on the right side of the road. Horse drawn carriages are considered “slow-moving vehicles” and are required in some states to have a slow-moving vehicle warning sign on the back of your carriage.  We all want to be safe so please have one on your carriage!

I know we all have busy and full lives and we try to multi-task in an attempt to get more accomplished in the hours of the day that we are awake. Having a cell phone glued to our ear when we are driving our horse is just as dangerous as when you are driving your automobile. Twenty two of the states ban talking on your phone, while forty six states ban all texting while driving, so if your driving you horse and carriage on public roads you are not allowed to text and drive.  For the four states that allow texting, you would need to be very proficient in driving with reins in one hand and texting with your thumb!

Now that I have gone over the laws that exist, lets think about the ramifications of talking or texting while you are trying to drive your horse.

  • 1) The vast majority of carriage drivers are only proficient at driving with two hands.
  • 2) The engine of your horse does not go to idle the second you take the gas off, the message takes a couple of seconds to get from your mind, to the command, then to your horse.
  • 3) Being that we use our voices more when we drive our horses, than when we ride them, you the driver must stay focused on driving the horse not on a conversation on your phone.
  • 4) According to a study done by Carnegie Mellon University found that 37 percent of your brain activity devoted to the task of driving is lost while texting at the same time.
  • 5) If you are texting while driving your horse, which text message is he getting?  Your horse deserves your total attention whenever your are driving him.
  • 6) When you are concentrating on your drive, weather is it a  lesson, clinic, preparing for competition or just driving for fun, and you are interrupted by your phone, you have just lost the communication with your horse. 

When I drive my horses I have always given them my full attention at all times.  Horses are just animals and good can go to bad really quick.  It is better to keep those bad times at a minimum, or never, and concentrate on just driving.

I know you are all wondering, have I ever texted or talked on my phone while driving, and the answer is no!  I do carry my phone on me especially when I am out by myself just in case there is a problem. 

There have been two occasions when I have come upon another driver that was using their phone.  The first was actually during a competition on the marathon course.  It was in an area where there was two way traffic and we were heading towards each other, and the other driver was in the middle of the track. I finally had to yell at the driver to get her attention, so that we would not be run of the track.

The second was also at a competition in the warm up arena for dressage.  Here again, there were several competitors in the arena including a four up.  Can you imagine my surprise when the driver was talking on his phone while driving the four up.  For the sake of safety, I decided to exit the area until the four up was finished.  The driver had no idea that his attention was not on his horses.

As an instructor, I do not allow cell phones in the arena for any of my students.  I will never answer my cell phone when I am giving a lesson, it will always be in airplane mode.  As the instructor, I need to stay focused on the student and their horse.  After all, they are paying me for my time and experience and not for phone time.  There is a lot of concentration that one has to have to be able to help a student with their horses driving issues.  I want my students to get as much as they can during the lessons, so that they feel like they can go home and practice what they have learn

So, lets all leave the phones in the tack room while we are driving our horses so that we can have a fantastic and safe time driving our horses!