Crucial breakdown advice has been shared with horse owners as covid restrictions ease.
Highways England has launched a campaign to help drivers feel safer as the nation moves out of lockdown, including what to do to do in an emergency if you are driving a horsebox or towing a trailer.
Last year, horseboxes were involved in 631 breakdowns on motorways operated by Highways England.
The key message of the new campaign is that if you get into trouble on the motorway, go left. If you are unable to exit the motorway at the next junction or service station, try to go left into an emergency area or hard shoulder.
“Safety is our top priority and we know that no one plans to break down but the unexpected does happen,” said Stuart Lovatt, Head of Strategic Road Safety for Highways England.
“We also know how important animals of all shapes and sizes are to their owners which is why it is important to know what to do in an emergency.
“By following simple safety advice, go left, we want all those travelling on the motorway to feel more in control and confident.”
What to do if you breakdown while transporting your horse
The advice to drivers who experience a problem with their vehicle is to leave the motorway if possible. But if that is not possible, Highways England recommends the following:
Put your left indicator on and move into an emergency area, onto a hard shoulder, motorway service area, left-hand verge or A-road lay-by.
Switch your hazard warning lights on, even during the day. If it’s dark, use sidelights and in poor visibility use fog lights as well.
On a motorway without a hard shoulder, it should be possible for most vehicles experiencing a problem to reach an emergency area. These are spaced regularly and are marked by a clearly visible orange road surface and blue signs featuring an orange SOS telephone symbol.
If it is safe to do so, and you can get out with any passengers, exit your vehicle on the side furthest from traffic. If it is not safe to do so, stay in your vehicle and wait for help.
Keep well away from moving traffic and your own vehicle. Get behind a safety barrier where there is one, and where it is safe to do so. If you’re on a verge, be aware of any unseen hazards such as uneven ground or debris.
Never wait in your horsebox or trailer.
Contact Highways England on 0300 123 5000 and then a breakdown recovery provider.
If you are unable to exit your vehicle and get to a safe place, have stopped in a live traffic lane or feel your life is in danger, stay in your vehicle with your seatbelts and hazard lights on and call 999 immediately.
Des Payne, Safety Team Leader at The British Horse Society, stressed that equestrians should never enter the horse compartment in the event of a breakdown on the motorway or major A-road.
“Don’t unload your horse unless the police or agencies have granted permission,” he said. “The safety of you, your horse and those in vehicles around you is paramount and therefore we strongly advise that all possible steps are taken to minimise the risk of a breakdown or incident occurring.
“It’s vitally important that thorough vehicle checks are carried out before every journey, regardless of how frequently you use your mode of equine transport.
“It’s also important that trailers are professionally serviced at least once a year, as like servicing a horsebox, ensuring all areas of the vehicle have been rigorously examined. Before towing, it’s crucial that all trailer components are fit for purpose.
“There are multiple checks that should be carried out on your mode transport and a detailed list of these can be found at bhs.org.uk/transporting-horses.
“The BHS also recommends that you take out quality breakdown cover specifically for equine recovery, otherwise a rescue, particularly from a motorway, has the potential to be very expensive.”