Drivers’ safety warning after horsebox tips over on motorway

  • The owners of a horsebox that flipped on to its side and spun 180 degrees after a lorry pulled out in front of them on the motorway have shared their experience in hopes of improving others’ safety. 

    Leading researcher Russell MacKechnie-Guire, of Centaur Biomechanics, was travelling home on the M6 with his husband Erik — but no horses on board — on 4 May when the accident occurred.

    Dr MacKechnie-Guire told H&H he is still having flashbacks of the incident but the couple want to share what they have learned in terms of safety measures.

    “If it helps one person, we’re happy,” he said. “Thank god we didn’t have any horses on board. We walked away from it with just bruising, which is amazing.”

    Dr MacKechnie-Guire said the couple were nearing home, having delivered some of their Highland ponies to stud, and had just travelled through an area in which a temporary 40mph speed limit applied.

    “We were accelerating out of the 40mph zone and moved into the middle lane to overtake a lorry in front,” he said. “As we moved over, and were accelerating to pass the other vehicle, it decided to do the same thing, and for whatever reason pulled in front of us.

    “We had to brake or we’d have gone right into the back of him and as we did, we went into a skid. The front of the lorry went left, and the tail end to the right and Erik tried to get out of it but the lorry tipped over and did a 180, so we were on our side, facing the oncoming traffic.

    “We’d both stayed in our seats but Erik was looking down on me, and all I remember seeing, and still see now, is the three lines of motorway traffic coming towards us.”

    Dr MacKechnie-Guire, who thanked the “fantastic” response of the emergency services, said the couple are very grateful the situation was not worse.

    “So many things were on our side,” he said. “If the other cars had been doing 70mph, they couldn’t have stopped and we wouldn’t still be here. But the traffic was slow because we were exiting the 40mph zone, so it all stopped.

    “Thank god the horses weren’t in there, or the dogs; we were meant to take them with us but one of mine had come into season so we didn’t, or they’d have been in the living, and could have been injured or killed.

    “We’ve got to be positive; we’ve survived and we’re so grateful, so if we can get a message out to help other people, that will make us happy.”

    Dr MacKechnie-Guire said the most important thing that protected the couple is that both had their seat belts on.

    “We didn’t move out of our seats,” he said. “Seat belts are essential; the number of people who wouldn’t think to use them in a lorry but the police officer said they saved our lives. He said some lorries don’t have them, because of their age, but people should really get them fitted.”

    The police also recommended having knives to cut seat belts if necessary; Dr MacKechnie-Guire was stuck in his and managed to wriggle out but knives, on keyrings or attached to each side of the dashboard, would allow people to be cut free.

    “They’re something to think about having, but we also couldn’t get out of the cab,” he said. “One door was on the road and the other one above us; the amazing driver who stopped to help said to kick the windscreen and it came out with one kick. That’s the safest and quickest option to get out; the other thing we were worried about was that we’d just filled up with diesel and fluid was leaking so we wanted to get out as soon as possible.”

    Dr MacKechnie-Guire also highly recommends drivers have dash cams; his lorry did not have one. The helpful lorry driver did record the accident on his camera, and that footage has been sent to police and the couple’s insurers, but “had we had one, the footage would have been even better,” he said. “The police on the scene highly recommended having dash cams.”

    The couple also had no seat belts in their living area but recommend they be fitted.

    “It’s trashed,” Dr MacKechnie-Guire said. “Everything’s broken; when we went over, it was like a washing machine, with everything flying about, and if someone had been in the back, it would have been horrific.”

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    Finally, the couple highly recommend the What3words app, in which every square metre of the world has a unique three-word combination, allowing emergency services to locate it as quickly as possible.

    “It’s a super app for equestrians because we get ourselves in places that are hard to find sometimes,” Dr MacKechnie-Guire said. “After the accident, we were completely in shock and didn’t know where we were when Erik called 999. We were between motorway reference points so only knew we were on the M6, then I used the app to tell them our coordinates.”

    Dr MacKechnie-Guire added: “We never in a million years thought this would happen to us. 

    “We’re very safety-conscious, risk-averse drivers, and we didn’t do anything wrong. I almost wish there had been a blow-out or it had been raining or icy because then we’d have a reason but this could happen to anyone.

    “Don’t underestimate how fast things can go wrong. Of course, 9.999 times out of 10, you’ll be absolutely fine but we’ve got to do things to optimise safety. Hopefully you’ll never need them but if this helps anyone else in any way, then perfect.”

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