Horse sense for motorists

Horses and their riders are among the most vulnerable groups of road users.

According to a survey by the British Horse Society, more than 4,000 horse riders and carriage drivers were admitted to hospital between April 1 2013 and March 31 2014 from injury in a transport accident.

75% of accidents happened because the vehicle passed the horse without allowing enough space, while over a quarter of respondents said that they also had to deal with driver road rage during the incident.

The BHS have recently launched a road safety education campaign suggesting that drivers should slow down to 15 mph when they encounter horses on the road and to give riders plenty of room.

Kevin Clinton, Head of Road Safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: “Horses are large, powerful animals and they can easily panic and bolt if startled. This is dangerous for the horse, the rider and other road users. All drivers should be aware that they may come across horse riders at any time, especially in rural areas. If you see one, slow right down as you approach and pass it slowly and smoothly, without revving your engine or sounding your horn. If there’s not room to pass it safely, wait until there is.”

However, it’s not just the horse that will suffer when involved in a road accident. The average horse weighs half a ton and on impact can cause significant damage to a vehicle and the people inside.

What does the Highway Code say about driving around horses?

Rule 215 particularly references the steps to take when driving around horses:

  • Be particularly careful of horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles especially when overtaking.
  • Always pass wide and slowly.
  • Horse riders are often children, so take extra care and remember riders may ride in double file when escorting a young or inexperienced horse or rider.
  • Look out for horse riders’ and horse drivers’ signals and heed a request to slow down or stop.
  • Take great care and treat all horses as a potential hazard.


In addition, remember the following:

  • Take extra care at left-hand bends and on narrow country roads.
  • Riders should signal their intentions, but drivers should be aware that horses are unpredictable and a rider on a young or frightened horse may have their hands full.
  • Look out for horses turning right. Horse riders keep to the left of the road even when turning right – it is unsafe for them to position a horse between lines of traffic where they can panic, sandwiched with no escape route.
  • Always expect the unexpected around horses.