“Promoting safety for horses & riders on UK roads”
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HorseSolicitor warns riders of high number of towing related road accident claims The   show   season   is   almost   here   and   you   may   be   thinking   of   dusting   off   your   horse   trailer.   Before   you   take   your   trailer   out   make   sure   you   familiarise   yourself   with   the law   and   consider   whether   you   might   benefit   from   further   training   to   protect   the   horse(s)   in   your   trailer   and   other   road   users,   including   other   riders.      Likewise,   whilst out   hacking,   you   may   see   an   increase   in   the   number   of   individuals   towing   caravans.      You   should   be   aware   that   vehicles   towing   trailers   or   caravans   may   be inexperienced in doing so and may not drive suitably when passing. You may recall HorseSolicitor’s recent settlement, as published in Horse and Hound and on the HRSA forum. Our client, who was wearing hi-vis clothing, was riding her horse on a straight section of a narrow country lane. On hearing a vehicle approach from behind she glanced over her shoulder by which time it was alongside her. The car was towing a caravan. There was no time for her to attempt to move out of the way and the speed and proximity of the car spooked her horse. The horse spun around and as it did it struck the side of the caravan with its hindquarters. The horse lost its footing and our client was thrown onto the road. She received compensation for her physical and psychological symptoms. Unfortunately,   the   above   example   is   just   one   of   a   number   of   cases   that   we   have   dealt   with   all   of   which   had   almost   identical   circumstances.   We   hope   that   by   raising awareness   of   the   dangers   of   towing   a   trailer/caravan,   without   training   or   experience,   more   people   will   consider   voluntary   training   to   reduce   the   risk   to   themselves and other road users. Changes in the law have attempted to ensure that those towing are competent to do so. Your   driving   licence   shows   the   categories   of   vehicles   you   are   entitled   to   drive   and   the   size   of   trailer   you   are   allowed   to   tow.      The   rules   relating   to   what   you   can   tow without further training depend on when you received your driving licence:- 1. Before 1 st  January 1997 You are legally entitled to drive a vehicle and trailer up to a combined weight of 8.25 tonnes (8250kg).  2. 2 nd  January 1997 to 18 th  January 2013 You are legally entitled to drive a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes towing a 750kg trailer. You can tow a trailer of over 750kg provided the combined weight of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3.5 tonnes. 3. 19 th  January 2013 to date You are legally entitled to tow trailers weighing no more than 750kg.  You can tow trailers of over 750kg provided the combined weight of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3.5 tonnes. The   difference   between   2   and   3   above   is   relatively   minor,   with   the   major   distinction   being   between   licences   pre-dating   and   post-dating   1997.      These   changes   were brought   into   place   to   implement   the   Second   EU   Directive   which   was   charged   with   (among   other   things)   improving   road   safety;   however   it   did   not   have   retrospective effect.      In   practice   this   means   that,   though   the   pre-1997   licences   will   eventually   be   phased   out,   there   will   effectively   be   two   main   categories   of   licence   for   the foreseeable future (given that the youngest people with the old licence type would be 35 years old). To   put   the   rules   for   pre-1997   driving   licences   into   context,   cars   usually   weigh   between   1   to   1.5   tonnes   and   4x4s   between   1.5   to   2   tonnes;   meaning   drivers   with   pre- 1997 licences can legally tow trailers of up to a weight of around 6.5 to 7 tonnes without any training or prior experience of doing so. In   practice,   this   can   often   lead   to   a   number   of   preventable   accidents.      From   our   experience   a   number   of   such   drivers   fail   to   allow   riders   enough   space   or   travel   past riders   too   quickly   because   they   have   no   experience   of   the   fact   that   towing   a   trailer   affects   most   aspects   of   driving,   including   handling   and   the   height,   width   and length of your vehicle. Further,   Department   of   Transport   statistics   show   that   there   were   561   reported   accidents   in   2013   where   a   car   or   van   skidded   or   overturned   while   towing   a   caravan   or trailer.      Only   4%   of   these   accidents   occurred   during   adverse   weather   conditions   (ice,   rain   or   snow)   and   only   3   (0.5%)   occurred   due   to   road   surface   issues   (oil,   diesel   or mud) suggesting the vast majority occurred due to driver error.  Other Requirements The   maximum   width   for   trailers   is   2.55   metres.      The   maximum   length   of   a   trailer   for   vehicles   weighing   up   to   3.5   tonnes   is   7   metres.      Be   aware   that   many American made trailers can exceed these dimensions and are not road legal in the UK. Most   vehicles   have   a   maximum   weight   that   they   can   safely   tow.      This   is   usually   listed   in   the   vehicle   handbook   or   can   be   found   online.      Sometimes   it   may   be listed   on   the   vehicle   identification   number   plate   on   the   vehicle   as   ‘gross   train   weight’   (this   is   the   weight   of   your   vehicle   and   the   trailer   when   both   are   fully loaded). Your   tow   bar   needs   to   meet   EU   regulations   and   be   the   correct   type   for   your   vehicle   (both   of   these   will   be   identified   on   a   label   on   the   tow   bar),   unless   your car was first used before 1 st  August 1998 in which case there are, unfortunately, no such safety requirements. You   should   have   towing   mirrors   if   the   trailer   or   caravan   is   wider   than   the   rear   of   your   vehicle,   or   if   the   trailer   causes   you   to   have   an   inadequate   view   of   the road   behind   you.      Failure   to   have   towing   mirrors   in   the   above   circumstances   would   be   dangerous   and   could   lead   to   prosecution   by   the   police   in   the   form   of   3 points on your licence and a fine of up to £1000.00. Any trailers weighing over 750kg (when loaded) must have a working brake system and be in good working order. You must display the same number plate as the towing vehicle on the back of the trailer. Practical Points 1. For riders Be vigilant on the roads and be aware that vehicles with trailers (or caravans) might be inexperienced and travel too quickly or too closely to you and your horse. Consider investing in a head camera. Always wear hi-vis (such as V-Bandz) when hacking out. 2. For those towing trailers Check that you are legally entitled to tow your trailer; Ensure your trailer is regularly serviced and meets all legal requirements; Be cautious when passing riders and livestock, always adhere to the Highway Code which requires you to leave plenty of room, drive slowly and be prepared to stop; and Consider voluntary training to build your competency level. Finally, if the worst happens and you are involved in a road traffic accident the below steps should be taken immediately (even if the third party fleas the scene and cannot be traced), to provide the rider with the best prospects of pursuing a successful claim for injury and any associated financial losses. - It goes without saying but in case of serious injury then someone needs to call 999; - Even if it’s not a 999 scenario you should report the accident to the police using the 101 number; - Take details of any other parties involved in the accident. The more information you can get the better but you need at least their name, address and vehicle registration number (if relevant and if the third party has not fled the scene); - See it there are any witnesses who will give you their details. Here you want name, address and phone numbers; - Take photographs of the accident scene and any vehicles and animals involved. In the case of vehicles you should try to get pictures of the number plate, any damage, and its position on the road; - Call HorseSolicitor (01446 794196) sooner rather than later for no-win no-fee advice. People are usually far more willing to admit liability for something they’ve done in the immediate aftermath than when you try to bring a claim 2 years down the line.
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