Higher priority for horses on the road

  • The equestrian industry is pushing for a sharper focus on horses and riders in a revision of the Highway Code, with calls for all riders to take out public liability insurance and wear reflective clothing at all times.

    These are early recommendations by British Horse Society (BHS) senior safety executive Sheila Hardy, who is canvassing the views of several thousand members prior to the 10 May public consultation deadline.

    “There’s room for more equine representation in there, which is exactly what we’ll be seeking,” said Ms Hardy of a draft document produced in February by the Driving Standards Agency, an executive agency of the Transport Department.

    “We will use the consultation process as an opportunity to ensure that, where suitable, horses are included when the Highway Code refers to walkers and cyclists.”

    Ms Hardy said she agreed with one update already included in the draft document, which recommends that at night, riders should fit “a light which shows white to the front and red to the rear” to the right-side stirrup or carry a light in their right hand when leading a horse.
    But she stressed the BHS advised against riding at night, adding on the issue of road safety the real answer lay in expanding off-road access.

    A Transport Department spokesman said the draft consultation document was the result of “a tidying up exercise to bring the Highway Code in line with the law”, adding anyone was welcome to provide feedback on the question of widening its scope.

    One new entry in the draft code, not seen since the 1950s, is the recommended return of horse-drawn vehicles under a section entitled “Rules about animals”. It advises that vehicles should be operated and maintained according to the Transport Department’s Code of Practice for Horse Drawn Vehicles.

    British Driving Society (BDS) chairman John Parker said this reflected the growing popularity of driving since the society was established in 1957 to encourage people to keep up “a dying tradition”.

    On the wider issue of horses on roads, he said the Highway Code should give the same level of importance to horses as bicycles, adding that it would be helpful if signals used by horse-drawn vehicles (through use of the whip) were set out for all road users to understand.

    “The most important thing is to raise awareness,” said Mr Parker. “Ten years ago people had some idea of a horse on a road. Twenty years ago they had a lot more and 30 years ago, they had a very good idea, but today they have no idea at all.”

    Bill Cook, risk management director of The Pony Club, said all road-users should be educated about how to react when encountering horses and riders or horse-drawn vehicles.
    Mr Cook said he would like to see a recommendation that drivers “slow down by at least 20mph” on sighting a horse or other animal on any road.

    He said The Pony Club used the Highway Code as a guide for its riding and road safety badge and test.

    Want to have your say on the code? Visit: www.dsa.gov.uk/highwaycode

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