Despite the Highway Code going through changes aimed at improving safety for horses, it’s been revealed that a total of 68 horses died on Britain’s roads last year and 125 were injured.
In 2023 two horses have already been killed, according to the British Horse Society (BHS), which released its 2022 statistics on 29 January.
Labelled as ‘shocking’ by BHS director of safety Alan Hiscox, the figures show that almost 10 incidents were reported for every day last year – a total of 3,552.
In 2021 there were 66 horses killed, meaning that 2022 represented a 21% overall increase from 2021. The number of horses injured has decreased slightly, from 129, but the number of riders injured has gone up from 126 to 139.
Mr Hiscox said: “Horses are still being killed and injured on our roads, riders continue to be seriously injured and too many drivers underestimate the importance of driving carefully around horses.
“This is detrimental to the safety of equestrians. You only have to look at the two horses who were tragically killed in just two weeks at the beginning of 2023.”
Mr Hiscox told Horse & Hound he feels “frustration and disappointment” at the stats, especially after last year’s Highway Code changes, which state that horses should be passed at a maximum 10mph and at least two metres’ distance, and put riders above cars in the new hierarchy of road users.
“In the three months after the Highway Code changed, we did see incidents drop, but now they’re up to the levels of before the changes came in,” he said. “I’m very disappointed in the way the changes were publicised and they seem to have dropped off the DfT [Department for Transport] menu.”
Mr Hiscox stated that the BHS safety team spoke to visitors about the changes at motor shows last summer.
“At Silversone, 76% of people we spoke to didn’t know about them, and at Goodwood, it was 87%,” he said.
“The AA did a survey and over 60% of drivers were unaware. For those first three months, we thought, ‘This is actually going to make a difference’ but were very disappointed. So we’re calling for more to be done. We’re part of the vulnerable road user group and I was really encouraged we were put alongside pedestrians and cyclists in the hierarchy of road users, but that message is still woefully missing from lots of drivers’ knowledge.”
The BHS will be among the organisations asking for a bigger push on the changes; it works with Road Safety GB, road safety partnerships across the country, Driving Instructors Associations and many more.
Mr Hiscox’s plan is to keep pushing the BHS Dead Slow campaign to as many people as possible. The stand is scheduled to be at events such as NEC Caravan, Campaign and Motorhome Show next month, which is expected to attract some 100,000 visitors, and driving instructors’ conferences.
More “close pass” events are also expected to be run with police forces.
Mr Hiscox continued to say: “It’s trying to get the information, knowledge and understanding out to encourage that desirable behaviour.
“The Highway Code change was a seismic step to increase the safety of horses on the roads, but it needs to be reinforced all the time and that’s what we’re pushing for. The AA says it, Cycling UK says it; the public campaign wasn’t good enough. The figures and the lack of knowledge are shocking.”
The BHS has always urged riders to report all incidents on the roads. It believes only 10% of incidents are reported via its website, but some of the increase this year may be down to more people doing so via its dedicated Horse i app, which launched in March 2021.
A BHS spokesman said: “The more incidents that are logged, the more the BHS can do to protect the rights of horse riders on Britain’s roads.”
A DfT spokesman told H&H the Highway Code changes’ aim is “to improve safety for people cycling, walking and horse riding, and we invested over £1.3m in our THINK! campaign which has increased awareness and understanding of the changes over the last year”.
“We have worked closely with a group of stakeholders representing all road users to develop the campaign, with many also supporting the campaign on their own channels,” he said.
He added that DfT stats show that 83% of road users had heard of the changes by last August, and that they will continue to be promoted via the THINK! social media. The DfT will look at “further campaign activity in future”.