New Statistics Reveal Threat to Horse Riders on Scottish Roads

Horse riding on the road

As a Driver or Rider, What Can You Do?

Car drivers and horse riders both have a right to use the road in safety. But worryingly in Scotland the number of road incidents involving horse riders and vehicles is on the rise.

Specialist Solicitors in Horse Accidents at Digby Brown, have been provided with statistics by the British Horse Society (BHS), the largest equine charity in the UK. These figures show the numbers of accidents that have been reported to the BHS via their website.

In 2013 there were 7 accidents reported on Scottish roads. This has more than doubled with 19 accidents reported in 2014 and 20 accidents in 2015.

The BHS accept that this is only the tip of the iceberg as not every accident is reported to them. There is currently no requirement for an equestrian-related accident to be recorded unless there is human injury that requires hospital treatment directly from the scene of the accident. This means that a horse can be killed or a vehicle written off and the accident may not be reported anywhere.

At Digby Brown our specialist horse accident team is also noticing an increase in personal injury claims as a result of accidents on the road whilst riding.

According to the BHS, in Scotland there have been 22 cases of driver road rage against horse riders, 35 cases of vehicle speeding past horses being ridden on the road and 89 cases of vehicles passing too close to riders.

This has resulted in 2 rider fatalities, 6 severe injuries, 17 moderate and 19 mild injuries. The injuries to horses are 9 fatal, 4 severe, 14 moderate and 19 mild.

It is important that drivers know how to deal with a horse and rider when out on the road. Digby Brown is keen to support BHS Scotland as part of the BHS national campaign “Dead? Or Dead Slow” campaign.

Helene Mauchlen Scottish National Manager for BHS Scotland has told us:

“The Dead Slow campaign is all about encouraging drivers to pass horses at a maximum of 15 miles per hour. There is a feeling amongst some that this should be made law but that is not what we are asking for – simply because it will not happen. Instead we are trying to change the attitudes and behaviour of drivers through education and we are hoping to get the limit into the Highway Code (this would not make it law but would certainly give it more gravitas). Obviously we are not just talking about speed though – it is about giving enough space, not revving the engine etc.”

The greatest number of accidents happen because the vehicle passed too close to the horse, with the majority happening on a minor road in a rural area.

Brake – the Road Safety Charity in their campaign Rural Roads not racetracks say:

“Because there is less traffic, some drivers feel a false sense of security on country roads. However, they are statistically the most dangerous for all types of road user…Country roads may appear empty, but they are full of unpredictable hazards. They are shared spaces used by pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, slow farm vehicles, livestock and wild animals – all of which have a right to be there.”

So, as a driver what can you do?

Ask yourself this question – would you put your vehicle 2 metres in front of something weighting up to ½ a tonne potentially moving towards you at 50 mph?

This is effectively what you are doing if you pass too close to a horse on the road. Horses are flight animals and can be unpredictable and easily frightened. They can move sideways very quickly if startled. Your vehicle could be written off if a horse lands on top of it. They can kill occupants of the vehicle if they come through the windscreen.

  • Slow down and be ready to stop if necessary when approaching a horse and rider
  • Look out for riders signals and take notice if asked to slow down or stop – they may be aware of something you are not.
  • Do not sound your horn or rev your engine
  • Keep your speed down especially if you meet a horse on a bend or are unable to pass it right away.
  • Give at least one and a half car lengths to horse and rider until it is safe to pass.
  • When you pass give a horse at least the room of a small car as you do so.
  • Do not accelerate as you pass or immediately after passing
  • Do not overtake if there is any doubt you can do so safely.

If you would like to know more about best practice on the road, please watch the short video produced by BHS


As a rider – always do as much as you can to protect yourself and your horse when out riding, and…

  • Always wear Hi-Vis or reflective clothing whatever the time of day, month or the weather,

According to the BHS June is the most common month for accidents and surprisingly 11am is the most common time for accidents on the road.

  • If cars wish to pass slow down to a walk and ride single file if possible to allow cars to pass you safely
  • Try not to use the road at times when it will be difficult for you to be seen e.g. at dusk, in fog or on icy and snowy roads
  • Use hand signals to allow drivers to be aware of your intentions
  • Make yourself aware of the highway code especially Rules 47- 55
  • Consider taking the BHS ‘Riding and Road Safety test’

Many of these tips can feel like common sense but making yourself aware of these guidelines will not just go some way to reducing the number of accidents but also reduce your exposure to potentially expensive claims against you.

If you have been injured in a horse accident and would like some help, please call us on 0333 200 5925 complete a short enquiry form and a member of our team will be in touch.