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  • Writer's pictureDale Webster

Horse owners to gain greater protection on Victorian roads

Updated: Jun 14

ABOVE: Two riders and at least six horses have been killed on Victorian roads since 2019. The state may soon have a road safety hierarchy system similar to the United Kingdom.

HORSE riders and drivers will be officially recognised as vulnerable road users in Victoria if recommendations from a state government inquiry are accepted.


Included in the 56 recommendations of the inquiry into the Impact of Road Safety Behaviours on Vulnerable Road Users is the adoption of a hierarchy system similar to that being used in the United Kingdom.


Other important recommendations include signs with “pass wide and slow” written on them to alert drivers to horses in areas of high use and a review of the need to specify a lower speed limit when motorists pass horses in the road rules.


The committee also recommends a vulnerable road users’ advisory group to contribute to development of road safety interventions be developed, awareness campaigns and new avenues on where to report dangerous driving.


“Motorists need to take more care when passing horses,” the report said.


ABOVE: The UK hierarchy of road users.

“Horse riders are also vulnerable on the road as motor vehicles passing too close, at speed or beeping their horns can frighten horses and place the riders at risk.”


Horse owners were included in the inquiry largely thanks to the work of Animal Care Australia and Bitless Inc.


Both groups lobbied strongly for the inclusion of horse riders and drivers, which had initially not been considered as part of the terms of reference.


Animal Care Australia horse and livestock representative Karri Nadazdy said that between 2019 and 2023, two riders and at least six horses were killed on Victorian roads.


“We were concerned to see that horse riders and carriage drivers were not recognised as vulnerable road users in the establishment of this inquiry but we are delighted to see the committee recommend that horse riders be included in the definition of vulnerable road users in future,” she said.


“This means horse riders will be considered when policy is made that affects us.” 


Animal Care Australia worked with Bitless Inc to conduct a survey of equestrian experiences on Victorian roads in May last year and the results were presented in submissions and witness testimony to the inquiry.


All but one of Animal Care Australia's suggested recommendations were adopted by the inquiry committee, including the introduction of a hierarchy of vulnerable road users.


“The recently implemented hierarchy of road users in the UK prioritises the safety of the most vulnerable individuals – pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders – by placing them at the forefront,” Ms Nadazdy.


“This system de-emphasises the convenience of motor vehicles, which has traditionally overshadowed the needs of others.”


The report from the Victorian Legislative Assembly Economy and Infrastructure Committee still needs to be accepted and then implemented by the Victorian Government.

“Animal Care Australia will continue to engage with the Victorian government to ensure these recommendations come to fruition,” Ms Nadazdy said.


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