By Leanne Stephenson, personal injury specialist at Hudgell Solicitors
Good driving is about showing consideration for others at all times when behind the wheel, ensuring the decisions you take reduce the risk of accidents and injury on the roads.
Of course, we all like to think we are skilful and considerate drivers, doing our best to ensure we adhere to the laws of the roads. We know the key rules – and possible consequences – relating to breaking laws on speed, drinking, and using our phones, and drive accordingly.
However, what about the ‘grey areas’ of the rules on the roads, such as how to drive when approaching horse-riders?
It is a situation drivers will increasingly come across, and one in which that key skill of consideration is very much required.
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, given the increasing numbers of horse-riders on the roads, there is no firm law or clear guidance for motorists as to exactly how they should adapt their driving when approaching horse-riders to reduce the risk of accidents.
Unclear guidance for drivers to help reduce accidents
The Highway Code advises drivers to slow down and give room, yet does not give any idea of how much room should be left between vehicle and horse, or what speed is considered safe. It is left to the individual’s interpretation.
The British Horse Society recently revealed that there have been more than 2,000 reports of accidents involving horses on UK roads since 2010, with almost one in ten resulting in a fatality.
And according to a survey they conducted, three in four accidents happened because the vehicle passed the animal without allowing enough space.
It is an increasing problem, as in 2012 a total of 165 accidents were recorded, but this figure had risen by nearly 50 per cent to 316 in 2015. Over the past five years there have been 36 rider deaths in the UK, and 181 horse deaths.
A spokesperson for the charity said a major problem was that many drivers are unsure how to behave when near a horse, and it now calling for legislation to be introduced to set a statutory 15mph law when passing horses.
Earlier this year, horse carriage master Mark Evans was injured and his horse Wil was killed after being hit by a car as he pulled a funeral cortege in Wales. The tragic case received national media attention and prompted petitions calling for greater protection from the Government for horse riders.
Road accident victims often require long-term support
At Hudgell Solicitors, we see the devastation often caused by careless driving and misjudgements of drivers behind the wheel. People can be left needing life-long support and treatment, and in some cases, errors in judgement can prove fatal.
Our personal injury compensation specialists have also supported many people who have fallen from horses, falls which often leave the individual with serious injuries which can have a long-term impact on their day-to-day life, or result in long periods off work.
Given the statistics, we agree that the introduction of clear guidance and legislation for drivers relating to horse-riders should help reduce the number of casualties.
Horses are prone to being nervy and bolting, and a revving engine, loud music, or beeping of a car horn could result in serious injury to a rider, horse, motorist or a passer-by.
Perhaps it is time for Government took greater notice of the worrying increase in accidents and injuries on the roads relating to horse riders, and took steps to ensure new laws are both incorporated into the Highway Code, and adopted by motorists from the moment they pass their tests.