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Police operation educates drivers on passing horses safely

Another police force has taken action to protect horses on the roads by extending its Operation Close Pass initiative.

Devon and Cornwall Police initially rolled out the scheme — which aims to educate drivers on how to pass vulnerable road used safely — for cyclists in 2017.

On 13 May, the force hosted a trial day of the new Operation Close Pass – Horse Safe at Oaklands riding stables in Exeter, using officers to monitor drivers’ behaviour.

During a Close Pass operation, a plainclothes officer on a bicycle reports to supporting patrol colleagues if a vehicle has passed too closely. The uniformed officers then direct drivers to a safe stopping space, where they are spoken to and shown using a specially produced mat how to pass at the recommended distance of 1.5m.

Motorists can chose between receiving this roadside education or being handed a penalty notice for careless and inconsiderate driving. Police say most drivers opt for roadside education, where they can also be shown the video evidence from a camera on the officer’s cycle.

On the trial day of the Horse Safe operation, a British Horse Society (BHS) equestrian safety advisor joined roads policing and rural affairs police officers to help advise drivers of their responsibilities towards other road users.

During the initiative, Devon and Cornwall officers pulled over and spoke to two drivers. A virtual reality headset was also used to give a rider’s eye view of a close pass.

Alan Hiscox, director of safety at the BHS said: “We’re thankful to Devon and Cornwall Police and Dorset Police Alliance for allowing us to work with them on their Operation Close Pass. These operations are vital in raising awareness among drivers on how to safely pass horses on the road and to increase understanding that horses and riders are vulnerable road users.”

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BHS figures reveal that in the southwest last year, there were 239 road incidents involving horses and vehicles, which led to the death of 37 horses.

“It’s important for drivers to remember that there are three brains working when a car meets a ridden horse; the rider’s, the driver’s and the horses’. Even a well-trained horse can act on its natural instincts, which may mean quickly trying to avoid a perceived threat, such as a fast approaching car which is why it’s so important to pass wide, at least a car’s width and slow, 15mph,” Mr Hiscox added.

Police and crime commissioner Alison Hernandez said: “This is a fantastic initiative to promote safety and respect between all road users. Education is key and any prevention of death or serious injury to both people and animals is great news.”

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