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Plea to horse riders and road users in new safety appeal

13 Feb 2019

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Police are urging road users to look out for horses on the roads as part of a fresh safety appeal.

Officers are asking those using the roads to approach horses with care using the same consideration as they would when driving past pedestrians or cyclists. Cyclists are being asked to slow down and pass wide.

The appeal, asking all road users to share the roads safely and look out for one another, comes under the same framework as Op Velo - an operation aimed at reducing the number of collisions involving cyclists on the county’s roads.

Between April 2016 and December 2018, there were four collisions involving vehicles and horses in Cambridgeshire.

On 23 September 2016, a collision between a motorcyclist and a horse on Gamlingay Road, Sandy, resulted in the motorcyclist being airlifted to hospital with serious injuries. The horse had to be put down due to his injuries.

On 3 March 2017 two riders fell from their horses after a car failed to reduce its speed and collided head on with them on Mepal Road. One rider was taken to hospital but suffered no serious injuries.

On 12 May 2017, a rider fell from their horse after a van passed them driving at 35mph on the A1101 near Wisbech. The horse rider suffered serious injuries.

On 13 July 2017 a horse rider was left with minor injuries after a collision with two cars on the B1093.

During the same two year timeframe, there were also two collisions involving vehicles and horses in Bedfordshire – one resulting in a horse rider suffering fatal injuries.

In Hertfordshire there were eight collisions, two resulting in serious injuries and the other six resulting in minor injuries.

PC Jon Morris, casualty reduction officer at Cambridgeshire Constabulary, said: “Under the Op Velo guidelines, the optimum distance to pass a cyclist is 1.5m and we are urging drivers to approach horses with the same level of caution.

“Horses can be startled by many things, noise, flapping objects, dogs barking, a bike speeding up behind them, a vehicle splashing through a puddle etc.

“These things can make a horse more difficult to control and cause it to ‘shy’ suddenly, possibly into the path of traffic. Look out for the rider’s signals and always take notice of a request to slow down or stop.

“We’d also encourage horse riders to use hand signals wherever possible.

“We’re encouraging all road users to make the roads safer for everyone - please share the roads safely and look out for one another.”

The force’s appeal also supports the British Horse Society’s Dead Slow campaign, which urges motorists who see a horse on the road to:  

  • Slow down to a maximum of 15 mph
  • Be patient, don’t sound the horn or rev the engine
  • (When safe to do so) pass the horse wide and slow, at least a cars width if possible
  • Drive slowly away

Alan Hiscox, director of safety for The British Horse Society said: “It is important to remember horses are flight animals that can react quickly when startled, and even the most experienced of horses can suddenly react to something they are unsure of. 

“Since the launch of our horse accidents website in 2010, 290 horses and 39 riders have been killed on UK roads and as a result of this, we are encouraging all drivers to adhere to our Dead Slow campaign messages.

“If drivers follow these four simple messages (above) and both riders and road users show patience and courtesy to one another whilst sharing the roads, we can help bring the level of accidents down.”

The force’s new safety plea has been devised with the support of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Road Safety Partnership.

According to the British Horse Society, horse riders are encouraged to: 

  • Always wear hi-viz clothing and put hi-viz equipment on your horse, even on bright days
  • Avoid riding in failing light, fog or darkness or when it is snowing or icy
  • Show courtesy to drivers – they should then return the favour
  • If you are riding a horse that is not used to roads, make sure you are accompanied by an experienced rider and horse
  • Concentrate all the time
  • Make sure you have told someone where you are going and what time you are expected back

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