The New Highway Code: How it Affects You and Your Horse

You might remember back in January we mentioned a review of the Highway Code. As of 29 January 2022, a number of changes to the code came into force – and it’s one step closer to making our roads safer for horses and riders. Most significantly, a new hierarchy of road users means that riders are to be considered equal to cyclists.

So what does that mean in practice? We’ve broken down some of the most important things you need to know.

  1. The new hierarchy of road users gives more responsibility to those who present the most risk. For example – drivers have responsibility for themselves, as well as cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians, because they present the most risk.
  2. Within the hierarchy, cyclist and horses riders are to be treated equally.
  3. Riders have responsibility for themselves, and more vulnerable road users like pedestrians.
  4. Other road users must pass riders at no more than 10mph, with at least 2 metres of space.
  5. Cyclists must not pass a horse on the left.
  6. Drivers should take extra care when entering a roundabout, and must not cut across riders who are continuing around the roundabout in the left hand lane.
  7. Horse riders should give way to pedestrians on a zebra crossing, and pedestrians and cyclists at a parallel crossing.
  8. Horse riders should give way to pedestrians on bridleways, or other shared use paths.

All of the above changes have been welcomed by the British Horse Society, who have been campaigning tirelessly to make the roads safer for horses and riders.

With almost 2 horses killed each week on UK roads, and that number increasing year-on-year, the new rules are aimed to protect horses and riders as vulnerable users.

You can read more about the Highway Code changes here.

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Hold your Horses, Drivers

The keen reader might remember that in last month’s blog we talked about the benefits of reporting incidents on the BHS Horse i app. The data collected by the app supports both local and national campaigns for equine safety – in particular their Dead Slow safety campaign.

We are currently seeing too many reports of road traffic incidents involving horses, so this is particularly relevant right now.

Launched in 2016, Dead Slow looks at ways to improve both horse and rider safety on the road. It provides education to drivers on how to pass horses safely, encourages riders to take measures to protect themselves, and works with MP’s, the police and road safety partnerships to drive community awareness and improvements.

Last year the Government undertook a review of the Highway Code. With the support of Dead Slow and the data gathered through Horse i, the BHS have been heavily involved as a member of the Highway Code stakeholders focus group. Acting as a voice for the horse community, the BHS suggested some significant amendments to the code. These amendments were laid before parliament in December and, we are pleased to report, due to be implemented by the end of January!

BHS Director of Safety Alan Hiscox told Horse & Hound of the changes, “I was dancing a little jig when I read them!” Adding, “this will be a major step for the safety of horses on the road.”

Some of the most significant changes are:

  • Drivers are advised to pass horse riders and horse-drawn carriages at 10mph or less
  • Drivers are advised to give riders at least two metre’s space when passing
  • Riders will be considered alongside cyclists in a new hierarchy of road users
  • Clarification that horses should never be passed on the inside
  • Feral or semi-feral ponies require the same consideration as ridden horses

You can read more about the upcoming changes to the Highway Code, and Mr Hiscox’s response in this article of Horse & Hound.

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Horse i, the app with an eye for safety

Have you and your horse ever been involved in an incident? (no, this isn’t an advert for a no-win, no-fee solicitor). Something that put either of you in danger, or made you feel unsafe? Did you report it? Did you know where, or how to report it?

The BHS estimates that only 1 in 10 equine incidents are reported to them. In an attempt to increase this number, and empower riders, they launched an incident reporting app earlier this year. Using Horse i, you can report incidents like road rage, car accidents, dog attacks, fireworks and low flying aircraft, in just minutes.

Most riders are aware that sharing roads, fields, beaches and bridleways within our communities can sometimes be difficult. But often, incidents occur because local MPs, road safety partnerships or the police are unaware of the potential dangers we’re facing.

The data collected from Horse i, is used as evidence to support improvements in the community, to make it safer for riders, drivers and dog walkers alike. Without the data provided by you, it can be difficult to highlight the regularity and severity of these incidents.

The incidents you report through Horse i are used to;

  • lobby and advise MPs – giving a voice to the equine community in government debates, on topics like road safety and fireworks
  • support local safety campaigns such as, Dead Slow – Road Safety Campaign
  • identify problematic areas or trends in the community
  • promote awareness of equine safety at BHS events throughout the country

Whilst the app was released earlier this year, a more recent update has improved the loading of questions and added a feedback option after submission. Users have called it a “great initiative”, and “easy peasy to report to the BHS”.

The app is available in both iOS and Android app stores. Taking only a couple of minutes, the information you submit could make all the difference.

You can learn more about the app in this article from Horse and Hound.

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Road Safety And Animals

As the bad weather of winter approaches, we wanted to share some stats with you to highlight the need for road safety. Tragically each year many horses and riders lose their lives on roads around the country. In 2012, 183 road traffic incidents were reported to the British Horse Society and included:

  • 2 rider fatalities
  • 12 severe rider injuries
  • 14 horse fatalities
  • 3 severe horse injuries

If you come across a horse and rider on the road, or a horse and cart, please slow down and pass as slowly and as wide as possible when passing. Equally, please do not rev up your engine or use your horn and turn your radio down!

Similarly in the New Forest, ponies are still killed regularly by inconsiderate drivers.  Animals are unpredictable, easily spooked and will often panic at the sight and sound of a vehicle. They may wander onto and cross a road without any thought for the traffic. If there are warning signs, please obey them, slow down and be alert. If you do see an animal on the road, please proceed with caution, approach slowly and be prepared to stop suddenly. Dark and inclement weather makes this even more important.

Statistics of animal deaths on the road for last year in the New Forest were:

  • 54 ponies
  • 17 cows
  • 1 sheep

So if you are going to the New Forest for a holiday or otherwise, please be animal aware.  The animals do have access to the roads and will be wandering around and on them. Sadly, the rate of fatalities goes up considerably in July during peak holiday season.

If you would like to find out more, you can find rules about animals on the road in the Highway Code here.


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