It is not unusual to encounter horses and their riders on our roads.
Horse-riders have little protection from other vehicles and horses may behave unpredictably at times.
Crashes with horses typically involve:
- High speed roads – 70 km/h speed zones and above.
- Outer suburbs or rural areas.
- A vehicle hitting the horse from behind or side-swiping a horse as the vehicle overtakes.
- The horse being spooked or bolting.
- The horse straying from a paddock or enclosure.
What can motorists do to minimise risk?
- Watch out for horses being led or driven on the road – leave as much space as possible to allow for unexpected movements by the horse.
- Take extra care on bends, crests and on narrow roads, particularly in areas close to horse riding schools, trail ride businesses and on rural roads.
- Slow down when passing a horse so your vehicle does not startle the horse, and allow plenty of room when overtaking.
- Don’t use your car horn around horses – it will startle even the most placid horse.
- Allow for inexperienced horse riders – especially young children.
What can horse-riders do to enhance their safety on the road?
As a horse-rider, you should:
- know and obey the Australian Road Rules
- ride on the left hand side of the road with the flow of the traffic
- use clear hand signals
- wear an approved helmet and footwear safe for horse riding
- wear fluorescent clothing during the day and reflective clothing if you ride in the early mornings or evenings when the light is poor
- always ‘look, check, and look again’ - the lifesaver look
- where possible, use horse trails and horse crossings
- if you’re an inexperienced rider, always be accompanied by experienced rider/horse combinations when in road-related areas
- ride single file or two-abreast
- ride carefully and be a courteous road user
- if you are involved in an incident on the road, report it
- always ride with a positive attitude.
What the Law says
Under the Australian Road Rules, horses are regarded as a vehicle and riders are subject to the same road rule as apply to other drivers. However there are some specific additional rules including:
- Horses are allowed on footpaths and nature strips, unless specifically prohibited.
Horse riders must give way to any pedestrian on a footpath or nature strip.
- If you are riding two-abreast with another rider, you must not ride more than 1.5m apart. This will allow other road users room to overtake safely.
- Lights on animal drawn vehicles – when ridden at night or in conditions of reduced visibility they must display a white light on each side at the front of the vehicle, a red light on each side at the rear (visible for 200m) and be fitted with a red reflector towards the rear of each side of the vehicle.
- A person must not lead an animal while also driving a motor vehicle or riding a bicycle.
A horse is considered to be a vehicle and therefore permitted to be ridden on the road, horse-riders are subject to the same penalties for road traffic offences as other drivers.
Australian Road Rules