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Driving near horses - the do's and don'ts

Chloe Martell profile

Chloe Martell

February 18, 2019

News 5 min read

As a learner driver, you are taught how to drive safely but unfortunately you’re not always taught what to do when it comes to passing horses on the road. Much like dealing with emergency vehicles, it’s not something you can guarantee to deal with on your driving lessons and therefore your first time experiencing it will likely be out on the road by yourself.

Unfortunately this lack in education and experience has meant an increasing number of reported incidents involving riders and cars, with over 400 being reported between March 2017 and March 2018! To tackle this issue, The British Horse Society launched the Dead Slow campaign – simple practice for drivers when it comes to passing horses and riders on the road.

By following these 4 simple steps, we can combat this issue.

1. SLOW DOWN – to a maximum of 15mph

2. BE PATIENT – don’t sound your horn or rev your engine

3. PASS THE HORSE WIDE AND SLOW – (if safe to do so) at least a car’s width if possible

4. DRIVE SLOWLY AWAY – make sure you’re clear of the horse and rider before picking up your speed again


Alan Hiscox, Director of Safety at The British Horse Society has said: “We launched our ‘Dead Slow’ campaign in March 2016 to help better educate drivers on how to safely pass horses whilst out on the roads. Many people are simply unaware that horses are flight animals and may move quickly away from a perceived threat. To date, according to our statistics, there have been 230 horses and 39 riders killed as a result of a road incident. We encourage all road users to be courteous and respectful to one another and if all drivers adhere to our Dead Slow behavioral change messages, we can help bring the incident rates down.

Our lovely ambassador Hannah is also sharing her views on the campaign!

I’ve been riding for over 10 years now, with a significant amount of that time spent hacking on the local roads. I’m also a new driver, so I see this issue from the perspective of both riders and drivers. I’m also a member of The British Horse Society, so I know just how much work they put into making the roads safer for everyone that shares them.

I think that the Dead Slow campaign has been brilliant so far in raising awareness of encountering horses on roads. Most people think of pedestrians and cyclists as the most vulnerable road users, but the natural flight response of horses adds an element of unpredictability, because even the most safe, calm and experienced horse could be caught off guard by a situation that they perceive to be a threat.

This campaign helps to create respect between all road users. There are so many misconceptions about horses being ridden on the roads. It’s also important for drivers to understand that it is not a reflection on the riders’ ability or the horse’s character, if an incident occurs.

When I started riding, a proportion either didn’t know how, or chose not to pass safely. I have experienced drivers beeping their horns and revving their engines at me, but the most common problem I experienced is drivers passing too closely. Horses can move sideways very quickly when they’re frightened, so it really is important to pass wide enough so that my horse and your car remain intact! And please if you are a driver, familiarise yourself with arm signals! Quite often a rider will be able to see something that their horse may react to, or feel tension in their horses’ body, so if we ask you to slow down, remember that it is to protect us all!

How can I help?

These shocking statics show just how big of an issue this is, and the urgent need to inform and influence driver’s behavior. As you can see from the stats, it’s not just the horses that are impacted by reckless driving, so are the riders and you as a driver. Following the 4 simple steps above, together we can combat this issue.

There have also been announcements for a Highway Code review and it is essential that equestrians are considered when this happens. The British Horse Society are urging people to get in touch with their local MP so ensure that equestrians are not forgotten in any change that may take place. Find out more info here.

Marmalade are proud to support The British Horse Society with this campaign in educating drivers on the importance of driving slowly and carefully around riders. Remember, the roads aren’t just for cars!

Chloe Martell profile

By Chloe Martell

'As a new driver, I'm so eager to share my driving journey with you all - from when I was a learner, going through my test and all the aspects of my driving life now, including my love of cars!'  See more posts by Chloe

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