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Seventy horses killed by first anniversary of Highway Code changes

Since 1 January 2023, two horses have already been killed on Britain’s roads. This shocking figure is reflective of the significant equine road safety challenge we’re facing, despite the Highway Code changes which were introduced this time last year.

These fatalities follow the 68 equine deaths logged via The British Horse Society’s (BHS) Horse i app in 2022, with an additional 125 being injured and 139 human injuries. In total the equine charity received details of 3,552 equine related road incidents over the past year, which is a notable 21% increase on the number reported in 2021.

The new guidelines, many of which were a direct result of the BHS’s significant involvement in the Highway Code review’s stakeholder group for vulnerable road users, include setting the advisory speed for passing people riding horses or driving horse-drawn vehicles at 10mph, and advising drivers to allow at least two metres of space.

Another key change was the new Hierarchy of Road Users, with horse riders now, alongside pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, recognised as road users most likely to be injured in the event of a collision.

While the new Highway Code guidance is an essential step in the right direction to protect horses and riders, the BHS is disappointed to see that not enough is being done to reinforce the behavioural messages and to make the public aware of the urgent importance of driving carefully around horses.

The BHS is committed to informing drivers and creating awareness about how to safely pass horses on the roads through their Dead Slow campaign. The equine charity is calling for more succinct information and awareness of the changes in the Highway Code.

Alan Hiscox, Director of Safety at the BHS says: “Horses are still being killed and injured on our roads, riders continue to be seriously injured and too many drivers underestimate the importance of driving carefully around horses. This is detrimental to the safety of equestrians. You only have to look at the two horses who were tragically killed in the space of just two weeks at the beginning of 2023!

Our fear is that guidelines aren’t being clearly explained and delivered; this needs to change. Urgent action is required to make every road user aware of the Highway Code changes and, critically, why it’s so important to pass horses with care. Only through working collaboratively to educate and drive awareness will we be able to stop these awful incidents from happening over and over again.”

Natasha Baker, GB Paralympian and BHS Ambassador calls for greater awareness of the guidelines set for passing equestrians safely: “Hacking is a big part of my training, helping to build my horse’s fitness levels, but heading out on the roads can feel like you’re taking your life into your own hands.

I’m so sad to see that this continues to remain the case, and it looks to be even worse a year after the changes to the Highway Code were introduced! Riding helps people from all backgrounds and walks of life, particularly when it comes to relieving stressful situations, and more needs to be done to make sure that every rider feels safe.”

We are urging equestrians, and the wider pubic, to log any equine related safety incidents using the Horse i app. The more incidents that are logged, the more the BHS can do to protect the rights of horse riders on Britain’s roads.

Learn more about The British Horse Society’s Dead Slow campaign and how you can help.

Notes to editors

The British Horse Society:

As the largest equine charity in the UK, The British Horse Society is dedicated to education, equine welfare, protecting and increasing access to bridleways and places to ride and carriage drive off road, and safety for horse and riders. The Society’s thriving and active community of staff and volunteers is committed to improving the lives of horses everywhere.

Case studies and spokespeople available on request.

Find out more about our current campaigns.

National statistics: 2022
[All statistics are from 01.01.2022 – 31.12.2022]

  • 3,552 road incidents involving horses have been reported to The British Horse Society
  • Of these, 68 horses have died and 125 have been injured
  • 139 people have been injured because of road incidents
  • 26% of riders were victims to road rage or abuse
  • 82% of incidents occurred because a vehicle passed by too closely to the horse
  • 78% of incidents occurred because a vehicle passed by too quickly

Compared to last year:

  • 21% increase in incidents reports compared to 2021 (2,943 incidents reported in 2021)

Since November 2010:

  • 12,113 road incidents
  • 44 people have lost their lives and 1,592 injured