More than one horse still dies on British roads every week

  • An average of more than one horse a week was killed on Britain’s roads last year, and three riders lost their lives, as many drivers are “still unaware of the advice in the Highway Code”.

    Changes to the guidance on passing horses safely came into force two years ago but of the 3,383 incidents reported to the British Horse Society (BHS) in 2023, 85% occurred because a vehicle passed too closely or too fast.

    The BHS has released its annual statistics covering incidents on the road, which show that three people died – the highest number of human fatalities since 2018 – and 94 were injured; 66 horses died and 86 were injured. In 2022, 68 horses were killed, and 125 injured, and 139 riders were hurt.

    “These figures are a stark reminder that road incidents involving equestrians continue to persist across the UK,” a BHS spokesman said.

    “This is despite the changes implemented in the Highway Code in 2022, which set out clear guidance for passing equestrians safely.”

    BHS director of safety Alan Hiscox said the statistics make it clear a “significant number of drivers are still unaware of the advice and the importance of driving carefully when passing and approaching horses”.

    “This is detrimental to the safety of equestrians,” he said.

    “We want to inform and guide road users on how to pass horses safely, explaining the consequences of passing too fast and too close.”

    H&H has reported on the BHS and Mr Hiscox’s extensive work via the Dead Slow campaign to educate drivers on passing horses safely.

    “While we recognise and thank drivers who continue to follow the Highway Code guidance, there is still much work to do to ensure all horses and equestrians remain safe when hacking,” he said.

    Trisha Sarnecka has been helping the BHS; she was riding 11-year-old Jazzy on the road when she and the mare were hit by a car.

    “We’d just gone round a bend when I heard a car coming,” Trish said. “I turned but thought they had plenty of time to stop. I thought, if I can see them, they can see me. But I didn’t hear them brake. It all happened so quickly; within a split second, the driver had hit us. All I heard was a loud bang. I don’t remember falling.”

    Jazzy sustained a fatal injury and Trisha broke both her hands.

    “I didn’t even realise I was injured,” she said. “Jazzy was lying on her side and her leg was snapped in half. She kept trying to stand up. I was using my broken hands to try and take her saddle off and keep her down. I didn’t feel anything, I was just worried about her.

    “I’m still processing it. I have to live with this trauma for the rest of my life. I do feel lucky to have walked away with small injuries; I was lucky this time, but so many others are not. Jazzy saved my life with hers – if I had been hit with the impact she was, I wouldn’t have survived.”

    Trisha’s message to drivers is: “Just think, it is someone’s child on that horse. Incidents like this are avoidable. Please slow down, there could be someone round the corner, and be extra cautious. There are horse signs all around the village. I wish people would pay more attention to them.

    “I’ve always been fearful on the roads; I expect the worst. I don’t want to feel at risk while riding.”

    Mr Hiscox urged riders to report any incidents, on the BHS website or its Horse i app.

    “We can then identify hotspots, advise stakeholders, and work towards a permanent change in some drivers’ behaviour,” he said. “The more incidents that are recorded, the more we can do to protect the rights of horse riders on Britain’s roads.”

    A Department for Transport spokesman told H&H: “It’s vital that all road users are familiar with the changes to the Highway Code, which is why we have used our THINK! campaign to increase awareness and understanding over the last two years.

    “As a result, 86% of drivers now understand the correct distances and speed for passing horses, and we continue to promote the Highway Code changes.”

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