New UK Highway Code Recognizes Riders Safety Needs

The new Highway Code in the UK contains welcome instructions to drivers about the need to take care when passing horses on the roads, thanks to persistent lobbying by the British Horse Society (BHS).

The previous version paid scant regard to the motorist's responsibility towards horses and riders on the road, limiting instruction to a brief caution about groups of riders that might contain learners. The new Code, in addition to giving detailed advice about animals generally, gives specific instruction to motorists to be particularly careful of horses and riders, especially when overtaking. “Always pass wide and slow. Horse riders are often children, so take extra care and remember riders may ride in double file when escorting a young or inexperienced horse rider. Look out for horse riders' signals and heed a request to slow down or stop. Treat all horses as a potential hazard and take great care.”

BHS Head of Public Affairs, Janet George, said that the BHS is delighted that the Department of Transport has adopted the Society's recommendations. “It is a useful step forward in our battle to reduce the number of accidents involving horses and riders. Hopefully, it will encourage those police forces who do not take accidents involving horses seriously enough to re-examine their stance. From January 1999, police forces have been required to keep statistics on horse-related accidents—but only when they result in injury to riders. If it is `only' an injured or dead horse, it doesn't have to be counted. We are aware of accidents resulting from careless driving that resulted in no action from police—because the only victim was someone's much-loved horse. These changes to the Highway Code place much more responsibility upon the driver, and we will be lobbying police forces around the country to ensure drivers who show scant regard for horse and rider safety face an appropriate penalty.”

The BHS emphasises that horse riders must abide by the Highway Code's Rules for Horseriders, which have also been expanded, and recommends that all riders should consider taking the BHS Road Safety Test.

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