Traffic jam guidance for drivers with horses on board *H&H Plus*

  • Following a recent case where a road closed by a multi-vehicle collision resulted in a horse being stuck on a lorry for 11 hours, H&H finds out what drivers should do if they find themselves stuck in stationary traffic with horses that are becoming distressed

    Riders have been reminded of steps they should take if they become stuck in stationary traffic with horses on board.

    There is often uncertainty about whether drivers are allowed to use the hard shoulder to get off a motorway or other major road if traffic is at a standstill and horses on board are distressed, especially in hot weather.

    The issue was key for Stuart Fawcett last month, who became stuck in a tailback 10 minutes from his home in Lincolnshire, at the end of a six-hour journey home with Sirius, a three-year-old Clydesdale he had just bought.

    A three-car collision had closed the A1 at Long Bennington, and Stuart came to a standstill at about 4.30pm, by which time Sirius had been on board for some eight hours.

    “With horses, it goes one of two ways – they’re either going to go down with exhaustion or go into panic mode and kick everything out the way and this is a 16.2hh or 16.3hh well-built young horse, so I called 101,” Stuart told H&H.

    There was no hard shoulder, and although Stuart asked for help, also on subsequent calls, no one arrived, despite his reporting concerns for Sirius’s welfare.

    Eventually, Stuart called horsebox hire company CVC Equihire, which sent a lorry to collect the horse from the nearest exit sliproad, at about 9.30pm.

    “We had to walk him a quarter of a mile through standstill traffic, up the sliproad and into another box,” Stuart said.

    “He was absolutely shattered – as we went up the drive [at our destination], he began to nod and started to go down. We just got him into a stable in time; that’s how close it was to being a disaster.

    “They didn’t open the road until 2am that morning, so if we hadn’t have been able to call out another box, he would have been stuck for 14 hours,” he said, adding that as the other carriageway was moving, help could have been sent.

    “I think in these situations there needs to be a procedure that comes into effect after so many hours. People transporting horses need to know who they should contact, at what interval and who should be helping them. Emergency services also need to be trained so you aren’t passed around the control room,” he added.

    What should you do if you get stuck?

    A British Horse Society spokesman told H&H anyone in a similar situation should contact Highways England, Traffic Scotland, Traffic Wales or Traffic Ireland, depending on where they are.

    “Although you can’t plan for all scenarios, it is vital to keep other key information such as equine breakdown numbers, policy numbers and your tyre details to hand,” he added. “Having this information will help you when you’re under pressure. Keeping extra supplies for your horse such as extra roughage and water is also advisable, but only give this to your horse if you are stationary and it is safe to do so.”

    Highways England advises that drivers to check traffic before leaving, and to keep an eye on the home nations’ highways authority websites and Twitter accounts for any updates, but acknowledge that of course some jams develop during a journey.

    A spokesman said drivers may only use the hard shoulder if told to do so by police or highways authority officers.

    Highways England head of road safety Richard Leonard added: “We understand that animals being transported may become distressed. If you need further advice or support of on-road traffic officers while on our roads, call our customer contact centre on 0300 123500. In an emergency, always call 999 to enable a coordinated and appropriate response.”

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