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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

‘Much work to do’ to reduce collisions involving horses



We have seen first-hand the terrible consequences of what can happen to horses when a car passes by too quickly and closely. Every day, we speak to, and receive reports from, members of the public who have been involved in a road incident with their horse. Sadly, these can end tragically. 


In 2023 alone, 66 horses and three equestrians were killed on our roads. Overall, nearly 3,400 equine related road incidents were recorded via our Horse i app last year, with 85% of those occurring because a driver passed by too closely or quickly.


But, what can we do to stop these incidents from happening? A big step will be ensuring greater awareness. As part of our Dead Slow road safety campaign, we continue to inform and involve road users on how to pass horses as well as how impactful passing horses in an unsafe way can be. 

This includes making more road users aware of the power of a startled horse and how a collision on our roads can not only lead to a horse being injured, but also the rider or carriage driver, motorist, or even the passenger in the vehicle too. 


We want people to recognise that horses are flight animals, and their instinctive response to danger is to react and move quickly away. Even the most experienced and well-trained horses can be startled by unexpected movements or loud noises, like a car passing at great speed. 

With all that in mind, it is incredibly important for all road users to pass horses safely, following the advice set out in the Highway Code for passing equestrians.


The guidelines, which were a direct result of the BHS’s involvement in the Highway Code Review Stakeholder Group, align with our key Dead Slow behavioural messages. Included is an advisory speed of 10mph for passing people riding horses or driving horse-drawn vehicles and asking drivers to leave at least two metres of space.


While we recognise and greatly thank all those road users who continue to follow this Highway Code guidance, it is clear that there is much work to do to make sure tragic incidents reduce dramatically.


Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible for equestrians to stay off the roads due to the shrinking bridleway network. That is why we are really working hard to make sure we all play our part to keep everyone safe.

Alongside, slowing down to a maximum of 10mph and allowing at least two metres of space upon seeing a horse on the road, we’re also asking roads users to: 

  • Heed a rider or carriage driver’s signal if they ask you to stop or slow down.

  • If a rider or carriage driver is signalling to turn, wait patiently for them to complete their manoeuvre before continuing your journey. If the horse(s) show signs of nervousness as you get closer, please stop and/or turn the engine off and allow them to pass.

  • Please don’t start your engine or move off again until the horse(s) has moved away.

  • If a road is narrow and there is not enough room to pass safely, please approach slowly, or stop to give them time to find a gateway or other place off the road where there will be enough space between the horse and vehicle to allow you to pass safely.

  • Please be patient. Most equestrians will do their best to reassure their horses and will allow you to pass as soon as it’s safe to do so.

  • The safest place for the rider’s hands is on the reins, so they may only be able to nod their head to you – but please do be assured that they will be very grateful for your consideration.

  • Look out for equestrian road signs – these signs indicate you are likely to encounter a horse on your journey.

The onus isn’t just on drivers, it’s important that equestrians take key steps when out on the roads with their horses too. This includes wearing conspicuous clothing and equipment as well as using the appropriate signals to make other road users aware of their intentions to manoeuvre.

If a rider experiences a driver going past too fast or close, we also recommend that they record it via our Horse i app. The more incidents that are recorded, the more that can be done to protect the rights of equestrians on Britain’s roads.


Unfortunately, far too many lives have been lost over the last 10 years on our roads and we all have a responsibility to stop this from happening. With your help, we can work collaboratively to drive awareness in order to make sure our roads are safer for future generations to come. 


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