Why we have to be so careful when passing animals on the road today
Our Road Safety Authority Expert says farmers, riders are under big pressure
I'd like to deal with the topic of animals and road safety this week.
Some colleagues and I were at a meeting recently with representatives of the Irish Farmers Association.
One of their members raised an issue that is of concern to farmers.
Many are getting abuse from impatient drivers when moving farm stock across the road from farmyard to field and vice-versa.
It's something I've witnessed myself and the behaviour ranged from down-right intimidating to simply dangerous.
Revving the engine won't make the cattle cross the road any quicker and it puts the farmer and animals under unnecessary stress.
Trying to force your way through animals or blasting your horn to hurry things up is irresponsible and potentially illegal.
You should always slow down and be prepared to stop when approaching or overtaking animals.
And if a person in charge of animals gives a signal to slow down or stop, you must obey it.
Be patient and, whatever you do, don't honk the horn if animals are in front of you.
It could frighten them and the farmer could lose control of the herd.
And that means it will take longer for them to be moved, causing you a longer delay.
An animal may also kick out and put a dent in the side of your car for your troubles.
The same advice applies to any horse riders you might encounter on the roads.
Take extra care when overtaking.
And, if necessary, stop your vehicle and allow them to pass by.
Most collisions on the road involving horses happen when the horse is struck from behind.
Horses and their riders are extremely vulnerable in a collision and can be seriously - sometimes fatally - injured.
You must always be careful when passing horses and riders on the road. A horse may startle.
The rider may be a child or an adult in training. Never pass unless it is safe to do so.
Slow down when approaching a horse and rider.
Be prepared to stop and let them pass. Again the same rules apply, as with the farmer in charge of animals, you must obey a signal to slow down or stop from someone in charge of a horse.
Why? Because they may know about a potential hazard you cannot see or hear.
Pass by slowly, driving wide of the horse and rider, give at least a gap of 1.5 metres.
Don't use your horn or lights in a way that might startle or blind a horse.
This could cause the rider to lose control of the animal.
If you drive a heavy goods vehicle, know the dimensions of your load.
Be aware that the sound of air brakes might startle a horse.
And show courtesy to riders and their horses, and take steps to minimise engine and other noise when passing.
A common theme of many previous articles is that the road is a shared space.
Horses and riders have every right to be on our roads.
However, they must follow the Rules of the Road.
It is vital that every rider has a clear understanding of these rules before taking a horse on a public road.
If you are riding or leading a horse, you must remain on the left-hand side of the road and when leading a horse, you should walk ensuring the handler is between the horse and the traffic, so as to prevent the horse from interfering with the traffic.
Of course it goes without saying that those in charge of animals must take steps to make sure the animals do not block other traffic or pedestrians unnecessarily.