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Changes to the Highway Code and how they affect horse riders

By Cathryn Godfrey,  serious injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell 

On Saturday changes will come into force to the Highway Code designed to improve road safety for all road users.  All road users need to be aware of the changes which are relevant to every day use of the roads.  This article provides a summary of the important changes for horse riders and horse drawn carriages.

Hierarchy of road users

There is new hierarchy of road users that is designed to protect the most vulnerable people using the roads.  

Rule 204 has been changed and now includes confirmation that in any interaction between road users, those who can cause the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they pose to others.  It means that horse riders now have a greater responsibility to pedestrians who are considered more vulnerable under the hierarchy and to reduce the risk or danger they pose to them.   

The key changes which affect horse riders are summarised below.

Passing distance

The rules now include guidance for drivers passing horse riders and horse drawn vehicles. This states that horse riders and horse drawn vehicles should be passed at a maximum speed of 10mph and to allow at least two metres of space. A driver should wait behind and not overtake if it is unsafe or not possible to meet these clearances. 

Rule 125 has also changed to acknowledge that unsafe speed increases the chance of causing a collision, or being unable to avoid one as well as its severity.  There is therefore an obligation to reduce speed when sharing the road with horse riders and horse drawn vehicles. 


There is a change to Rule 167 which requires drivers to stay behind a horse rider or horse drawn vehicle if following them at an approach to a roundabout or junction and they intend to turn left. 

Rule 186 has been updated in relation to roundabouts to advise road users that horse riders may stay in the left hand lane when they intend to continue across or around the roundabout. Drivers are advised to take extra care when entering a roundabout to ensure they do not cut across horse riders or horse drawn vehicles.

Road positioning

Rule 213 has been changed to state that on narrow sections of road,  horse riders may ride in the centre of the lane and for other road user to allow them to do so; both for their own safety and to ensure they can see and be seen. 

Horse riders and horse drawn vehicles have been added to the list of road users who may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces or obstacles such as drain covers or oily, wet or icy patches on the road.  Drivers are advised to give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction that the horse rider may have to make. 

Rule 215 which is specific to horse riders and horse drawn vehicles has been updated to advise other road users to be particularly careful when approaching, passing or moving away from horses. It states that when a driver sees a horse on a road they are advised to slow down to a maximum of 10mph and to be patient and not sound their horn or rev the engine and pass wide and slow, allowing two metres of space, when safe to do so.  

Junctions and zebra crossings

One important change is that when at a junction a horse rider should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road.  

Drivers and motorcyclists should not cut across horse riders or horse drawn vehicles travelling straight ahead when the driver or motorcyclist is turning into or out of a junction, in the same way that they would not turn across the path of another motor vehicle. 

Cyclists and horse riders

The Highway Code changes also include guidance and rules about how horse riders and cyclists should interact.  The main changes are:

  • Cyclists should give way to horse riders on bridleways.
  • Cyclists are advised to let horse riders know they are there by calling out or ringing their bell.
  • There is an obligation of cyclists using shared spaces to avoid passing horse riders or horse drawn vehicles closely or at high speed, particularly when approaching from behind.  

Passing should be to the right of the horse and there is a reminder that horses can be startled if passed without warning and for the cyclist to be prepared to slow down and stop where necessary. 

What does this mean for the horse rider?

Horse riders should be aware of the changes and ensure that they follow the Highway Code when riding on the road.  The changes are an important step in improving road safety but if they are to have an impact it is important that all road users educate themselves and are aware of the changes that have been made.

If you are an inexperienced horse rider or have not ridden for a while the Highway Code recommends that you consider taking the Ride Safe Award run by the British Horse Society.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in helping horse riders injured on the roads at our dedicated horse riding injuries claims section.

You can also find out more about the wider key changes to The Highway Code on our website.