The British Horse Society has recently published shocking statistics which show the “threat” posed to horses and the riders.
The BHS collected data for the period between November 2010 and March 2016. During that period it was noted that 36 riders died following incidents on the road. The true figure may be higher as it might be that not all incidents were reported to the charity. The same applies to the 2,070 reports of road incidents for the same period.
In addition, 181 accidents involved the death of the horse. June is the most common month for accidents, and 11.00am the most common time.
The BHS used the statistics as part of its launch of a campaign encouraging drivers to make sure horses and their riders stay safe on the roads. The campaign called “Dead Slow” wants drivers to slow down to 15mph when around horses and riders on the road. The information collated by the BHS suggests that 75% of incidents happened because motorists drove to close to the horse. Slowing down, being patient and only passing when there is enough room to do so safely will reduce the number of accidents causing injury and death.
The civil courts in the UK have always recognised that a motorist can be potentially negligent for getting too close to a horse. Cases like Devereux v Hayward & Equality Claims allowed a horsewoman to recover damages from a motorcyclist who had eased off the revs but failed to brake and hence got close to the horse before losing control, causing the horse to bolt and unseat the rider. In that case it was also decided that as the horse was normally stable and not particularly skittish, the rider was not even partly to blame for failing to dismount when seeing the approaching motorcycle.
Although the civil courts have recognised the potential negligence of drivers around horses, the BHS are campaigning for legislative change and for specific offences to be put on the statute book. At the moment, the criminal law will look at the usual driving offences, such as “driving without due care and attention” or “reckless driving” rather than there being any specific law about duties when motorists encounter horses.
Another development in this area is the increasing use of both helmet and dash cams – often providing vital evidence about how an accident occurred and who is to blame for it.
The BHS have produced a video for drivers giving advice about the best way to pass horses safely.
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