Highway Code changes to improve equestrian safety come into force

  • “IT’S all good,” was the reaction of a man instrumental in Highway Code changes set to benefit equestrians, which applied from 29 January.

    British Horse Society (BHS) director of safety Alan Hiscox spoke to H&H as amendments to the code, including guidance on the safe passing of horses, came into force today (29 January).

    H&H reported that the changes had been published last year, and that they would apply as part of the code after 40 days.

    The most significant changes are that drivers are now advised to pass horses at no more than 10mph, and at two metres’ distance. Equestrians are also classed equal to cyclists in the new hierarchy of road users, which is designed to protect the most vulnerable. There has been “misinformation and urban myths” spread about this hierarchy, with some thinking cyclists were ranked higher than riders, but this is not the case.

    “It’s exactly as we explained; pedestrians, then cyclists, riders and carriage drivers; all equal, all in the same group,” Mr Hiscox said, paying tribute to the support of Cycling UK in the process of changing the code. “Carriage drivers are included in a lot more rules than they were; I’ve fought for them, and for the semi-feral ponies like Exmoors and New Forest to be included, which they have. These are huge steps forward.”

    Mr Hiscox said the code is important as it will be studied by all learner drivers, and could be used to establish liability in any court case. It is also understood that the Department for Transport (DfT) is planning widespread communication of the amendments.

    “These are the first Highway Code changes for about 30 years involving horses, and it puts the detail to the guidance, rather than just saying ‘pass wide and slow’,” he said. “The fact they’ve put in that passing speed is a huge benefit to riders and carriage drivers.”

    The code also uses messaging from the BHS “Dead Slow” safety campaign, including the reference to three brains working; the driver’s, rider’s and horse’s.

    “I’m passionate about this,” Mr Hiscox said. “We all want the same thing; to save the lives of riders, carriage drivers and horses on the roads. I’m not a table-thumper but I’m a terrier. I’ve been biting at heels for years and it’s paying benefits for all equestrians.”

    In a release put out after some misinformation had circulated about the changes, the DfT clarified areas including the fact cyclists are told not to pass horses on the left.

    Roads Minister Baroness Vere said: “I’m proud to say we have some of the safest roads in the world, but I’m determined to make them safer still for everyone.

    “These updates to the Highway Code will do just that by bringing the rules into the 21st century, encouraging people to respect and consider the needs of those around them, and ensuring all road-users know the rules of the road.”

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