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Two wheels, two legs, four wheels or four legs: police urge respect between all road users

Originally intended to promote cycle safety, police in Devon have extended Operation Close Pass to educate drivers about how to safely pass equestrians.

In July 2017 the Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police Alliance roads policing teams launched Operation Close Pass.

This innovative scheme is intended to improve the safety of cyclists on the road by educating drivers on how to overtake them safely. The recommended space to leave when passing, when it is safe to do so, is 1.5 metres. It also encourages mutual respect between road users.

The scheme is now being extended to include horse riders and other vulnerable rural road users including pedestrians, farm workers, dog walkers and motorcyclists. Operation Close Pass - Horse Safe is supported by the Police and Crime Commissioners of Devon & Cornwall and Dorset and The British Horse Society.

The new approach was trialled at Oaklands riding stables in Exeter on 13th May 2019.

During a Close Pass operation, a plain clothed police officer on a cycle reports to supporting patrol colleagues if a vehicle has passed too closely, and then colleagues re-direct the drivers to a safe stopping place where that distance is very clearly represented on a specially produced mat.

Drivers are given the option to receive education at the roadside there and then as opposed to a penalty notice for careless and inconsiderate driving. Most drivers opt for roadside education and can also view the video evidence recorded on cameras fixed to the police officer’s cycle.

On the first trial run of Operation Close Pass – Horse Safe, two drivers were pulled over and given education.

Roads Policing and Rural Affairs police officers were joined by a British Horse Society (BHS) Equestrian Safety Advisor to help remind drivers of their responsibilities to other more vulnerable road users. A virtual reality headset was also used to give a riders eye view of a close pass. 

Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez said: "This is a fantastic initiative to promote safety and respect between all road users. Education is key and any prevention of death or serious injury to both people and animals is great news.

"Later this year we will have a system in place which will allow cyclists and equestrians to submit dash cam or head cam footage of dangerous passes. Together we can help make the roads a safer place."

Alan Hiscox, Director of Safety at The British Horse Society said:

“We’re thankful to Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police Alliance for allowing us to work with them on their Operation Close Pass. These operations are vital in raising awareness amongst drivers on how to safely pass horses on the road and to increase understanding that horses and riders are vulnerable road users.

“Last year alone, 239 road incidents involving horses and vehicles in the South West were reported to The British Horse Society, resulting in the death of 37 horses. It’s important for drivers to remember that there are three brains working when a car meets a ridden horse; the rider’s, the driver’s and the horses’. Even a well-trained horse can act on its natural instincts, which may mean quickly trying to avoid a perceived threat, such as a fast approaching car which is why it’s so important to pass wide, at least a cars width and slow, 15mph.”