2000 - A BHS Initiative
Nichola Gregory, BHS Press Officer
Every day on our roads there are at least 8 accidents involving horses and riders. It was a determination to reduce that number that the British Horse Society launched its Safety 2000 campaign.
The aim of the campaign is two fold: first to educate motorists on how to treat horses and riders when they meet them on the road, and secondly to educate riders on how to ride on the road.
The task of teaching drivers is massive, but not one which the British Horse Society has shirked. We have produced a video aimed at the motorist which explains very simply the dangers of rushing past a horse and rider at 40 mph with three inches to spare. It also explains the hand signals given by riders - what they mean and why they are given. We have produced posters and leaflets urging motorists to take care.
Cartoon by Marty Carlson, for more examples visit www.martycarlson.com
Thanks to the British Horse Society the ridden horse now figures in the Highway Code, with clear instructions to motorists. Another success story is persuading the Department of Transport to log horse related accidents on the police accident report forms. This has been in place since January 1999. If you have an accident then do be sure that the police record it, as there is evidence that some police forces are not doing it. A key element of the BHS campaign is accurate statistics. It is only by proving the extent of the problem that pressure can be brought to tackle it. If you do have an accident that it would help if you could fill in an accident report form. These are available from the BHS Safety Department. If everyone who has an accident fills one in, we will begin to have a very accurate picture of what sort of accidents are most common and where the danger spots are. This would give us valuable ammunition when talking to Government and Local Authorities.
Our job is to make motorists understand that if they would only show a little patience and tolerance, many accidents could be avoided. One way of doing this is to get a lot of publicity whenever there is an accident. It helps to get the message over to car drivers by illustrating the damage done by half a ton of horse landing on their bonnet! This is an ongoing project, and all riders can help by keeping the BHS informed about accidents around the country.
But motorists are only half the problem: the way riders behave is also important. All too often, it is only the rider interested in learning more who is receptive to the message. Most riders now wear the latest hat standard, and dress up in high visibility gear when they go out on the road. They ride sensibly and with consideration for other road users, pulling off the road where they can to let cars pass, and acknowledging motorists with a smile and a nod. However it only takes a few to give riders a bad name. They go out in black wax jackets on a dark bay horse (or a very green one!): perfect camouflage for blending into the hedgerows. They pootle along chatting to their friend alongside them, completely oblivious of the traffic building up behind. They don't take care to avoid busy periods such as morning rush hour or children coming home from school. But these are the riders who are not BHS members, do not read equestrian magazines and do not seem to have got the message.
The BHS Riding and Road Safety Test should be a must for everyone who ever has to ride on the road - and unfortunately that is all too many of us. There are signals which are specific to riders, and the position that a rider takes when negotiating a roundabout or turning right is different to that taken by a car. And then there is the question of whether you can be seen or not. Even on the brightest day, riders should go out in fluorescent and reflective gear. Only then can they be sure to stand out, especially when riding on a road overhung with trees. When visibility is bad on those dark winter days, then the BHS recommend that riders wear lights too. There are excellent little flashing lights which fasten on to arm or leg with a velcro band that have a good long battery life.
One obvious way to reduce accidents on the roads is to open up more bridleways and byways. Again the BHS is working hard on this. BHS ACCESS 2000- 27 May to 4 June is designed to highlight the need for more off road riding for horse riders and carriage drivers. The Access to the Countryside Bill is to go through parliament this summer, and it is vital that the current access to the countryside legislation does not miss the opportunity to address the needs of riders.
During the week of ACCESS 2000 the BHS will be presenting awards to local authorities, landowners and others who have addressed the needs of the Rider's Charter (see the BHS website: www.bhs.org.uk). Those who have refused will be getting the "thumbs down". Events around the country to mark Access 2000 will include bridleway openings, bridleway clearances, sponsored rides, and riding and road safety demonstrations. If you would like to take part, then contact your local BHS county committee or the access department at Stoneleigh.
Safety has long been a priority of the BHS, and we shall continue to campaign to make the roads safer for riders, given our limited resources. If you would like to help, you can do so by joining the BHS. Gold membership costs £38 (and includes insurance - an absolute must these days), while bronze membership only costs £10 -every little helps.
Anyone who would like to take their riding and road safety test should contact the Safety Department at the British Horse Society who will be able to put them in touch with a course in their area. Write to the BHS at Stoneleigh Deer Park, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, CV8 2XZ, telephone 01926 707700 or e-mail C.Shortland@bhs.org.uk