The British Horse Society has launched a horse road safety campaign urging drivers to slow down to 15 miles per hour when they meet a horse and rider on the road.
As a background to the campaign, the BHS released new statistics about road incidents. The figures show that more than half the incidents involving horses on roads happen between 10am and 3pm, with the highest number occurring in June.
Since the BHS launched its horse accidents website five years ago, more than 2,000 reports of road incidents have been logged. Of those, 36 caused rider deaths and 181 resulted in a horse dying from their injuries or being put to sleep.
Some three quarters of all incidents happened because the vehicle passed the horse without allowing enough space, and more than one quarter of respondents said that they also had to deal with driver road rage during the incident.
The majority of incidents happened on a minor road and in a rural area. Nearly half of the horses involved were used to riding on the roads more than once a week.
A further statistical breakdown shows that 90 per cent respondents on the accidents website were female, with 1,799 of respondents involved in an accident in England, 146 in Wales, 115 in Scotland, and 10 in Northern Ireland. The counties with the highest number of accident reports are Essex, with 155 reported; Kent, with 89 reported road accidents; and Lancashire, with 81 reports.
The BHS has produced a horse road safety video demonstrating how to safely pass a horse on the road. The charity will also be asking equestrians to ensure that they thank any drivers who pass them responsibly.
BHS director of policy Lee Hackett said: “We are asking drivers to slow down to 15mph when they see a horse on the road. A lot of people aren’t sure how to safely pass a horse when driving, and so we have produced a video showing exactly how it should be done.
“It’s worth remembering that these statistics are just the accidents reported to us. There will be countless others. Almost everyone who rides horses can recount a story about a time they had a near miss on the roads. We are campaigning for legislative change, but that can take a long time. That is why we are asking for this instant change in behaviour from drivers.”
Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, added: “Horses are large, powerful animals and they can easily panic and bolt if startled. This is dangerous for the horse, the rider and other road users.
“All drivers should be aware that they may come across horse riders at any time, especially in rural areas. If you see one, slow right down as you approach and pass it slowly and smoothly, without revving your engine or sounding your horn. If there’s not room to pass it safely, wait until there is.”