Alarming Rise in Horse and Rider Road Fatalities in the UK: A Call for Safer Roads
In a distressing report, the British Horse Society has disclosed that the past year witnessed an alarming surge in road casualties involving horses and riders on British roads.
Tragically, 66 horses and three riders lost their lives in road accidents, marking the highest fatality rate since 2018. This increase in fatalities occurred despite the introduction of enhanced guidelines in the Highway Code for safely overtaking equestrians, initiated in January 2022.
Throughout 2023, the society was notified of nearly 3,400 incidents, with a staggering 85% involving vehicles that either passed too closely or at excessive speeds. Additionally, around one in four riders experienced road rage or abuse, highlighting the perilous conditions equestrians face.
Alan Hiscox, the society’s director of safety, expressed grave concern over the decade-long trend of fatalities. “Despite appreciating the efforts of drivers adhering to the Highway Code, the battle to reduce incidents is ongoing,” Hiscox stated. He also addressed the misconception that riders can simply avoid roads, pointing out the diminishing availability of bridleways as a significant challenge.
To mitigate risks, the British Horse Society advises motorists to slow down to no more than 10mph and maintain a clearance of at least two metres when passing horses. Riders are encouraged to wear high-visibility and reflective gear and use clear hand signals to communicate their intentions, enhancing safety for all road users.
Hiscox emphasized the importance of understanding horses’ instinctual reactions to threats, which can lead to sudden movements. This underscores the need for drivers to approach horses with caution, ensuring they pass slowly and leave ample space.
Supporting its commitment to road safety, the society has launched the ‘Dead Slow’ campaign, educating drivers on the critical importance of passing horses carefully. Furthermore, the society has developed the Horse i app, enabling both equestrians and the public to report equine-related safety incidents. This initiative aims to gather data to bolster the protection of equestrians’ rights on Britain’s roads.