Vehicles dent; Horses and People die

Horse riders are legal road users.

The Road Code

As a motorist the road code requires that you MUST:

  • Slow down* and pass carefully - give the horse, and rider plenty of room.
  • Don't sound your horn, rev your engine or pass at speed - this could frighten the horse.
  • If the horse and rider are on a bridge or narrow road, be very careful – slow down or stop.
  • If the horse appears frightened, STOP!
  • At night, dip your vehicle's headlights when approaching a horse.
  • Two vehicles should avoid passing near a horse.

Slow down means SLOW. Many horses may need you to slow right down to 20 or 30kph, OR STOP.

Always give at least 1.5 metres room

Did you know that you can be charged with careless or dangerous driving if you are not careful around horses?

- NZTA Road Code.

HRSA Campaign Poster

Tips for safe motoring near horses

SLOW DOWN [as slow as 20kph] pass wide [ 2 metres please] Always be prepared to stop.

  • Watch out for horse riders' signals and heed any request to slow down or stop.
  • Know the hand signals for slow down (shown right), and stop. These are the same hand signals are used by police, and road maintenance crews, all drivers should know them.
  • Riders are allowed to ride in double file when escorting a young or inexperienced horse or rider.
  • Treat all horses as a potential hazard and expect the unexpected! Even experienced, well trained and calm horses can be scared or react instinctively to unexpected noises or sights.
  • Motorcycles please be aware that the noise of your engine may be particularly frightening to a horse. Wait until the horse is a safe distance away before speeding up again, particularly if this will cause a great increase in engine noise.
Slow Down Hand Signal

For your safety, and the safety of your passengers, please remember:

  • Horses are large. Even the best riders have no way to control a really frightened animal of this size (Like drivers can lose control of a vehicle)
  • It is in the best interests of you, your vehicle and your passengers to ensure that your behaviour does not frighten a horse on or near a road.
  • NEVER, EVER, try to push past a horse!
  • Any large animal on your vehicle bonnet is likely to kill any passenger(s) in the front seat as it thrashes around. Horses (and other stock) will end up in your windscreen (front seat) if you hit them, because of their height.

Road Tax

Vehicles do not have any special rights to the road. In fact motor vehicles have fewer 'rights', that's why a vehicle has to be licensed to use the road but the natural users of roads - people, horses (and later, cycles) do not. Some people argue that vehicles pay 'road tax' and therefore should be the only ones on the roads. This is completely untrue.

There is no such thing as 'road tax' in New Zealand.

Yes, there are many taxes and levies applied to petrol and diesel fuels, and vehicles, but by far the biggest proportion of money to build and maintain local roads comes from Council rates.

Walkers, cyclists, and horse riders generally have vehicles for their day-to-day use, and are therefore paying all those fuel levies, and vehicle taxes too. Everyone who pays rates, regardless of their mode of transport is paying, and equestrian properties tend to attract high Council rates. So even if they didn't have a single vehicle, equestrians are still putting in more than their fair share toward roads.

Every walker, runner, cyclist and horse rider contributes to paying for the roads, exactly the same as motorists.

Stuck behind a vehicle towing horses?

Please be patient. Towing vehicles are restricted to 90kph on the open road.

New Zealand roads are often poorly constructed, with few safe places to allow a vehicle with horses onboard to pull over. The gravel edges, and often steep grades or sudden drop off of tarmac that tip a trailer sideways are dangerous for horse floats to use.

Make sure you can see the towing vehicle's mirrors. Following too close behind the trailer means the driver cannot see you waiting to pass!