Road incidents involving horses rise again: reporting and education is key *H&H Plus*

  • The British Horse Society released its latest statistics involving horse incidents on the road. H&H spoke to the BHS, and road safety campaigners and charities, to find out wha happens next

    ROAD incidents involving horses have increased by 23% — but this could only be 10% of the total.

    The British Horse Society (BHS) has released its statistics for 2019-20, for incidents reported to horseincidents.org.uk. Of the 1,037, an increase from 845 from 2018 to 2019, 80 horses and one person have died and 136 horses and 135 people have been injured. Incidents involving semi-feral New Forest and Dartmoor ponies account for 127 reports.

    BHS director of safety Alan Hiscox believes part of the reason for the increase is the fact the incidents website is being publicised more.

    “We know only about 10% of people report to us; to get a realistic picture, we need as many people as possible to let us know,” he told H&H. “Multiplying that number by 10 will probably get a truer picture, and until we get that, we’re lagging behind when it comes to things like lobbying MPs, or speaking to the Department for Transport [DfT].”

    Of those who reported incidents, 43% had been subject to road rage or abuse.

    “That’s shocking, and shows there’s still a lot of work to do on informing drivers about our Dead Slow campaign messages,” Mr Hiscox said. “I don’t think 43% of drivers are awkward and inconsiderate, but many just don’t understand how to pass horses.”

    Mr Hiscox will continue his work with local authorities, police, driving instructors’ and lorry driver training associations, at public events and government.

    “Early next year, the DfT should release the results of the Highway Code consultation, then we’ll know where to go from there,” he added. “But the support we’ve had, from Cycling UK, and Living Streets has been immense; we’ve all been in it together as vulnerable road users.”

    Debbie Smith, founder of the Pass Wide and Slow campaign group, told H&H she believes a law on the maximum acceptable speed to pass horses is needed.

    “There’s careless and dangerous driving but it’s so hard to prove that when you’re on a horse,” she said. “I’ve reported a couple of accidents to police and they’ve said because they were on a 60mph limit road, there’s nothing to prosecute them for.”

    Ms Smith agreed education is also key, and that it is especially important to reach learner drivers.

    This year’s Pass Wide and Slow awareness rides were lost to the coronavirus lockdown but 100 have already been registered for next spring and she hopes for about 200 in total. Ms Smith thinks a key part of this is the rides raise awareness and attract media attention across the country.

    “Horses dying on roads doesn’t make the news, but we’re trying to make sure people know what’s happening,” she said.

    The BHS usually releases its accident statistics in spring but this year’s, delayed owing to the coronavirus, were made public to coincide with national road safety week (16-22 November).

    Charity Brake organises the event, which this year focused on excess speed.

    A spokesman said: “We want all drivers to remember the daily disasters due to speed, think about the victims, slow down, and reduce road danger. It’s important to remember that sometimes driving under the speed limit can still be too fast, particularly on winding roads, roads with poor visibility, and roads where there could be people on bicycles, on foot or on horses. The voices of the bereaved and injured help us all understand that getting somewhere a few minutes earlier is never worth the risk.”