DRIVERS who were unaware of how to pass horses safely on the roads in Sussex have been educated by police as part of ongoing work to improve the safety of all road users.
The British Horse Society (BHS) and Sussex Police put on the force’s first “safe pass” event, from Plumpton College, on 14 September.
BHS safety director Alan Hiscox rode along the road outside the college and back, on 14-year-old gelding Dallas, equipped with a body camera and radio. When a driver passed him inappropriately, he radioed two police motorcyclists, who escorted the vehicle into the college.
There, the driver would be booked if necessary, but otherwise was educated; shown videos of the consequences of passing horses unsafely, and spoken to about how and why to do it.
Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne told H&H the event was part of the country-wide Project Edward (every day without a road death).
“The idea is to educate the public to prevent deaths,” she said. “Particularly this event as much of the Sussex community lives in rural areas and there are lots of people who ride. This is an opportunity to educate other road users about how to behave around horses. Riders have just as much right to use the roads, and it’s about being mindful, and all users sharing the roads responsibly.”
Mrs Bourne said the shock of being pulled over for most law-abiding drivers would help, then the education should push the point home. Although should anyone have committed more serious offences, they could have been in line for licence points and a fine.
In total, nine drivers were pulled over. All were receptive to the education; wincing as they watched the videos and explaining they had thought they were passing Dallas appropriately.
“It makes people like me more aware,” said one driver, who was en route to Plumpton racecourse when he was pulled over for passing Dallas too fast. “In London, you don’t see many horses on the roads but this is something you need to know when you come off the beaten track.”
Another stopped driver said she was driving faster than normal to get to an appointment.
But PC Theresa Brogan of the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership told her: “Yes, but we want you to get there in one piece.”
Drivers were also told that planned Highway Code amendments are to come into force soon, and it is likely these will state that horses must be passed at least two metres away at a maximum of 15mph.
“It was a really good operation,” Mr Hiscox told H&H. “I was delighted that 99% of vehicles passed me correctly and safely, although of course an ideal one would have been none stopped at all.
“I’m really grateful to Sussex Police for this operation, and look forward to working with them in future.”
He added: “The vast majority of drivers don’t want to cause horses injury, they just don’t know how to pass them safely. I think that’s the key issue, and one of our jobs is to get the message out.”
PC Liz Daddy of the roads policing unit told H&H she had dealt with a case of a driver overtaking a horsebox and hitting the horse on the road in front of it.
The horse suffered a catastrophic injury, the young rider on board was also injured and another rider fell when her horse was spooked and bolted.
The driver was banned and fined, “but that doesn’t fix the traumatic damage the horses and riders suffered”, PC Daddy said. “That’s why I wanted to be here today.”
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