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Community / Equestrian calls for greater awareness on roads after increased frequency of dangerous drivers

Mandy with her horse. Photo: Mandy Sutherland

HORSE rider Mandy Sutherland says she recently purchased a safety camera due to the increasing frequency of incidents she has experienced on Shetland roads.

She is calling for more awareness of how vehicles should pass horses.

Sutherland, from Nesting, has had horses her whole life. She told Shetland News: “I never thought I would ever have to wear a camera.

“After two or three incidents I thought ‘well I’m going to have to do it’.

“It’s not common, but it’s getting to be more…I know another lass that wears a camera when she goes out on her horse.”

The riding camera that Mandy recently purchased. Photo: Mandy Sutherland

Sutherland said she will wear the camera on her riding hat in the future to document any poor driving practices.

These safety cameras can cost around £200 brand new, but Sutherland says it is “a worthwhile investment” for her.

“The last incident I had with the mini bus, the owner of the mini bus pointed out to me that it was my word against the driver’s,” she said. “I didn’t have anything to back it up.”

Sutherland said that these incidents of vehicles passing too quickly and too close have always happened, but that they are occurring “more often”.

“It could be because there’s more traffic on the roads,” she said.

“It could be folk are getting complacent because they think horses are like push bikes and stand still, well that is not the case.

“They are flight animals so if they get a fright they move instantly and they move very, very quickly.”

Guidance on horse riders is outlined in Rule 215 of the Highway Code.

The code states that vehicles should “always pass wide and slowly”.

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Vehicles should pass at a maximum of 10mph and must leave at least two metres of space.

Sutherland continued: “Even as a driver, I feel that standards are really, really bad on the road.

“For instance, where I stay there’s a hill and a single-track road… I always pull in for folk coming up the hill, it’s just courtesy to wave your hand to thank them. A lot of ones don’t even do that nowadays.”

She also highlighted that the blame is not always on the drivers, however.

“There is riders out there, and I’m possibly got it wrong in the past too, but I always acknowledge and try to thank drivers when they are courteous.

“Some riders don’t help the situation, they don’t give a good impression when they’re going along the road on their mobile phones.

“So there’s room for improvement on both sides I feel.”

Sutherland says she often faces criticism from drivers for riding on the road because horses “don’t pay road tax”.

“They don’t realise that it’s actually not a road tax that they pay for their vehicle, it’s a vehicle tax… they say, ‘you don’t pay anything to be on the road, you shouldn’t be on the road’.

“You get that attitude as well from folk.”

However, there is little other choice for horse owners in the isles.

“Unfortunately here in Shetland, we don’t have the luxury of bridle paths that we can ride on,” Sutherland said. “We have to ride on the road.

“One driver told me I have to be in a park, that I shouldn’t be on the road… I said, ‘well if you give me a park I’ll go ride in it’.

“We should be courteous to one another, we should be kind to one another.

“We all use the roads…we’re going to be on the roads because there isn’t anywhere else for us to go.”

“It doesn’t take a minute to stop or pull in or slow down to 10 mph.

“It could change that person on the horse’s life if there is an accident.”

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