Close to one incident an hour: a diary study to estimate the rate of incidents experienced by equestrians on the road

Equestrians in the Surrey area were invited to participate in a pilot study in 2022 in order to estimate the rate of road incidents experienced by equestrians per mile travelled and time spent on the road. They were required to log their experiences of at least 7 road activities between September and October 2022, track their activity route using a free mobile application (app) to allow estimation of distance and time spent on the road and report incidents (e.g. road rage, near misses and injury incidents) experienced during those activities via the British Horse Society Horse i app or Horse Incidents website.

Seventeen equestrians logged 114 activities (range 1 to 15). In 9 activities, respondents self-described experiences that would fit the definition of an incident, even though they had not been reported. Further examination of comments indicated frequent incidents were normalised to a large extent as expressed by this participant: “Many cars pass us too fast and/or too close. They will also over take when cars/cyclists are coming towards us. I have thought about reporting these incidents, however, it's so common, I'd be reporting all the time!".

A total of 28 non-injury incidents were reported or described, affecting 24% of the activities logged within a 2-month period. The mean incident rate (the average of all individual rates) was 0.178 incidents/mile or one incident every 5.6 miles spent on the road and 0.622 incidents/hour or close to one incident/hour. These rates are similar to previously reported rates for pedestrians and cyclists. Rates per hour are likely more representative of exposure risk as equestrians are generally slow moving road users. Normalisation of incidents that occurred frequently (close passes and being passed at speeds exceeding the Highway Code guidance of 10 mph) leads to potentially considerable underestimation of actual incidents suggesting rates are likely higher than estimated here.

Dee Pollard, Research Analyst, British Horse Society (BHS)

Dee Pollard has a PhD in Veterinary Epidemiology from the Royal Veterinary College. Her main area of interest are topics related to equine health and welfare, particularly the interaction between horses and humans.

She currently works as a researcher at the British Horse Society on a number of different projects and has a keen interest in road safety.

Dee has collated both qualitative and quantitative data on the topic of equestrian road safety, contributing to an increased awareness and understanding of the experiences and challenges faced by equestrian road users.

This knowledge can contribute to tangible changes that will increase safety for all road users when interacting with horses.