Owner of horse who died in road accident urges riders to sign safety petition

The owner of a horse who died after a collision with a car has urged riders to sign a government petition calling for laws to protect horses on the roads.

Lisa Atkin’s gelding Coco was being ridden on Westwood Lane, Normandy, Surrey, by a young rider, with Jan Findlay’s gelding Gerry (pictured below), ridden by Michele Clark, when a car hit Gerry on 26 November 2017.

Lisa told H&H: “I got a phone call from Michele saying ‘Get here quick, Gerry is down on the road’. I drove round the corner and saw the carnage. They were about 300 yards out of the yard and a local villager drove straight into the back of Gerry. He ploughed into Coco who was in front and he galloped off. Gerry broke his leg and had to be put down and Coco died of a heart attack.

Gerry

“Coco and Gerry were both 30-year-old semi retired horses who we had had for over 20 years. They were absolutely safe on the road, they were two old boys going for their weekly hack around the block.”

The driver, Karen Higgins, was found guilty of driving without due care and attention at Horsham Magistrates’ Court on 15 October. She was given five points on her licence, a £600 fine and was ordered to pay costs.

Surrey Police wildlife and rural crime coordinator PC Laura Rowley said: “This was a clear, bright autumn morning, but the driver failed to take account of the dazzling low sun with tragic consequences.

Lisa said the punishment the driver received “isn’t enough”.

“To get five points, she can still have two more offences and not lose her licence — there’s no incentive to drive through the village any slower because nothing has really happened to her. Five points doesn’t affect her life,” said Lisa.

“I would have liked her to receive a ban, a three-month or a six-month ban would hit drivers harder and they should have to do a driver awareness course. I see the driver every week, it’s really difficult but she’s been found guilty and has to live with that.”

A fundraising evening held with the help of Parwood Equestrian Centre to fund new road signs in the village raised £1,430.

“The parish council have been very good; holding meetings and agreeing to help us out with the signs. They’ve managed to get seven road signs by paying half themselves and the Highways England is paying the other half,” said Lisa.

“The wife of one of the councillors has horses so he suggested making more signs. Highways England only allow the official warning triangle with a horse so they agreed we could put up other signs on private land with landowners’ permission to make signs more effective by using the world “slow down”, and or “dead slow” so we are in the process of doing that at the moment.

“Highways England is going to put up the seven signs this month and over the next few months we will put up the others on private land. The signs need to be approved by the council, and Alan Hiscox of the British Horse Society suggested that we include cyclists so all vulnerable road users are covered. Once they are finalised and approved we will use the funds to put them up,” she said.



Lisa, who avoided riding on the roads for six months after the accident, now rides out with a helmet camera and wants people to continue to sign the petition.

“It was only recently I started riding on the roads again, but I won’t ride up the road the accident happened on and I video every time I ride out now. We’re trying really hard to encourage people to continue to sign the petition but I don’t know if we’ll get the 100,000 [necessary to secure a parliament debate] with time running out, it will be a shame if we don’t hit the target,” she said.

People have until 2 November to sign the petition by clicking here.

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