By Lizzie Hopkinson
The rise in road traffic accidents involving horses, is now widely reported across the equestrian world. The work done by the British Horse Society (1) with its Dead Slow campaign has done much to raise public awareness for the plight of the horse on today’s road. However, the reach of the BHS is mainly through the equestrian world, who are not the target audience. The task is to educate those who don’t understand the nature of horses.
The speed of a spook from walk has been registered by GPS on a rider’s mobile phone at 54 MPH. It is that spilt second reaction that car drivers struggle to understand. They cannot see the crisp packet in the hedge as they pull out to overtake. “Take great care and treat all horses as a potential hazard; they can be unpredictable, despite the efforts of their rider/driver.” The Highway Code. (2) This acknowledges that often despite our best efforts, horses are not robots, but we do owe it to both ourselves and other road users to ensure that we have made the best effort to ensure that our horses are well-behaved on the roads.
It is compounded by the sheer quantity of vehicles on the roads today. There are currently 7 times more cars on the road than in 1950, (3) that is an astonishing rise in volume. Coupled with the plight is falling bridleway access, “Horse riders in England and Wales have access to only 22 percent of legally recorded public rights of way and carriage drivers to no more than six percent, which means large areas have no offroad access at all” (4) So as riders are pushed off the public rights of way and onto the increasingly busy roads the problem only magnifies.
Part of the problem lies in the fact that statistically horse-riders are considered to be a minority, indeed in the Reported Road Casualties of Great Britain 2016, they are put into “other”, while pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists all have specified categories. They are listed as “vulnerable road users (usually defined as pedestrians, motorcyclists, pedal cyclists, and albeit with very low casualty numbers, horse riders.)” (5) A somewhat dismissive comment, when you think how many accidents are reported to the BHS.
We must do all we can to spread the message into the wider public, that horses are unpredictable, and ensure that we always thank other road users, to endeavour to make the roads a safer place for us to ride.
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- org.uk. (2018). Dead? Or Dead Slow?: New statistics reveal threat on Britain’s roads for horse riders | British Horse Society. [online] Available at: http://www.bhs.org.uk/our-charity/press-centre/news/jan-to-jun-2016/riding-and-road-safety-campaign [Accessed 18 Jan. 2018].
- uk. (2018). Road users requiring extra care (204 to 225) – The Highway Code – Guidance – GOV.UK. [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code/road-users-requiring-extra-care-204-to-225 [Accessed 18 Jan. 2018].
- co.uk. (2018). [online] Available at: https://www.licencebureau.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/road-use-statistics.pdf [Accessed 18 Jan. 2018].
- Advice on Multi-user routes. (2018). The British Horse Society.
- Reported road casualties in Great Britain: 2016 annual report. (2018). gov.uk.