· Other than driving, and motorbike riding my favourite past-time is horseriding. Which has been an interest of mine since I was around 10 years old. So a good 40 years. As well as the IAM, I am also a member of the BHS(British Horse Society) who have similar ethics to the IAM - Safety. Road Safety. The BHS have been campaigning "slow down for horses on the road" for a long time. "Dead Slow or Dead?" is their latest road safety campaign.
The latest statistics from the BHS are horrifying but not surprising.
The launch of the campaign, Dead Slow, follows a number of high profile petitions calling for greater protection for horse and rider on the roads following the injury of horse carriage master Mark Evans and the death of his horse Wil, who was hit by a car in Wales a couple of months ago as he pulled a funeral cortege.
Over 200 horses have been killed on UK roads over the last five years which is a horrific number – along with horse fatalities over 30 riders have also been killed in those road accidents.. Im wondering therefore if there's anyway at all that I can get the IAM to join forces with the BHS in this Road Safety Campaign.
A quote from BHS website: Lee Hackett, BHS Director of Policy, said: "We are asking drivers to slow down to 15mph when they see a horse on the road. A lot of people aren't sure how to safely pass a horse when driving, and so we have produced a video showing exactly how it should be done.
It's worth remembering that these statistics are just the accidents reported to us, there will be countless others. Almost everyone who rides horses can recount a story about a time they had a near miss on the roads.
We are campaigning for legislative change, but that can take a long time. That is why we are asking for this instant change in behaviour from drivers.
As mentioned earlier, Im a keen driver, motorcyclist and horse rider…and Ive been involved in a couple of road incidents with my horse. One resulted in my horse having chiropractor treatment, as he damaged himself trying to "get away" from two road users who thought it would be okay to sound their horns continually as they approached and went past us. There has been one vehicle in particular, that has been reported to the local police. He drives a Mercedes and when he sees horses, he speeds up and drives past too close. On one occasion he took the trouble to turn his Mercedes around and to drive back fast shaking his fist – which is when we got his registration number this is an elderly gentleman and to be frank, he is dangerous.
We ask drivers to pass wide because even the best trained horse MIGHT get "spooked" by something as silly as a squirrel – a horse is a "flight" creature. They are not predators. A great percentage of accidents involving horses and cars, happen because the driver drove far too close to the horse. (I have had cars squeeze past so close ive had to lift my leg a bit to ensure the car didn't get my stirrup scratch it. This happens when driver from behind cant wait for the oncoming car to come past so they try to overtake the horse instead.
We don't like taking our lives in our hands whatsoever…..we would much rather be riding on bridleways and restricted byways than the road (which is another campaign the BHS are rallying – the re-opening of many Bridleways and other access routes that are not in use. The BHS request that all riders on the road wear Hi Viz – so we can be seen easier. A lot of riders have taken to wearing Head Cams too. These have been very useful in catching a lot of bad drivers.
IAM drivers however, are different from the "norm" as we are more aware of whats going on around us and also what "might" happen – forward planning and forward thinking so we are prepared in case there's a horse or a tractor around the next bend - We drive responsibly, and in keeping with the road and weather conditions. As many drivers as possible should be encouraged to go on Advanced Driving courses from the moment they pass their test.
Always remember, that the child on the pony on the road ahead of you, is someones little sister/brother, daughter/granddaughter……..
I hope as many of you as possible will help us to change the way drivers react to horses on the road, by maybe encouraging your local councils to re-open bridleways and also to encourage more people to take their Advanced Driving Test.