More than 500,000 viewers tuned in to BBC Breakfast on Sunday (2 April) and watched campaigners highlighting riding road safety.
The live broadcast featured the British Horse Society’s (BHS) safety director Alan Hiscox, Laura Thorogood, who lost her horse in a road accident last year, campaign group Cenewdon Equestrian and Croft End Equestrian Centre.
Presenter Ben Thompson highlighted the shocking statistics that since 2010, 38 riders and 222 horses have been killed in accidents on Britain’s roads, and that reported incidents have increased in the year since the BHS launched its Dead Slow campaign.
Mr Hiscox attributed this rise to the increased awareness of the society’s Horse Accidents website, where riders can report incidents on the road.
“Reports of accidents on our Horse Accidents website have gone up because more people know about it, but it’s still shocking that this has happened,” he said.
“80% of these accidents are avoidable because drivers are travelling too fast or too close to horses, or both. So we’re asking drivers to slow down to a maximum of 15mph when they see the horse, pass wide and slow and drive away slowly.
“If drivers adhere to these messages then we can save lives — drivers’ lives, riders’ lives and horses’ lives’.”
Essex-based Ms Thorogood spoke about the lasting impact of the accident she had on 17 November last year, which resulted in the loss of her horse, Angel.
“I still suffer back problems, see a chiropractor weekly and the trauma has caused post traumatic stress from having to deal with it day-in-day-out,” she said. “I am lucky to be alive.”
Claire Lilly of Canewdons Equestrian, a group campaigning for change, said that the road in Rochford where Ms Thorogood’s accident took place has a 60mph speed limit.
“On the road in question, the fatalities are due to the speed; we need to get the speed limit down,” she said.
Pat Shepherd from Croft Equestrian Centre in Oldham also spoke about the problems experienced by riders.
“We all wear high viz to give motorists plenty of time to see us but time and time again people are coming back to the yard saying, ‘we had a near miss’, ‘he caught us with a mirror’,” she said.
“A few years ago I had an experience with a coach and the horse did not jump out in the road, he just drive too close. He cut in and caught the horse behind me and the horse ended up with loads of grazes. It could have been millions times worse than it was.
“I think that basically, he was in a hurry. That could have been fatal.”
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Mr Hiscox stressed that education of drivers was key, as well as working with other road users, including motorcyclists and cyclists.
“Drivers need to take much more care when they approach horses — that is the way to cut down these incidents,” he said.
Following the broadcast, Ms Lilly said the feature was a useful way of spreading the road safety message.
“It is so important to reach the wider audience as it’s people outside of the equestrian community that we need to educate,” she told H&H.