Motorists have legal duty to not frighten horses using roadways
HURON COUNTY — Motorists must exercise caution and be on the lookout for horse-drawn vehicles when travelling throughout Huron County, the local OPP have recently advised following a Nov. 23 crash that seriously injured a horse pulling a buggy in Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Township.
The horse had to be put down after a northbound sport utility vehicle rear-ended the buggy “at a highway speed” on Donnybrook Line at Belfast Road, according to police. The 65-year-old female buggy driver fortunately escaped serious injury in the incident occurring just after 5:30 p.m. She was transported to a local hospital by ambulance and released later that day.
Huron County is known for its substantial Mennonite and Amish population. And while no charges were laid in this case, police warn that horses and buggies are a common sight on the county’s rural roadways and drivers must be prepared to encounter them. One of the slowest modes of transportation on the road at only 14 km/h, they’re also one of the lightest vehicle types, leaving them at greater risk of injury in a collision.
The back of a buggy displays a Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) sign as well as reflective tape. Not all buggies will be equipped with electric lighting; some use lanterns instead.
“Please do your part to keep our roadways safe,” Huron County OPP say, pointing out that:
• Drivers using roadways in rural parts of southwestern Ontario should expect slow-moving vehicles such as horse-drawn vehicles and farm equipment on the road. They are common and have a right to be there. Stay alert and keep an eye out for them.
• Section 167 of the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario sets out a motorist’s duty to avoid frightening a horse along a roadway, to ensure the safety and protection of any person driving, leading or riding upon the horse — or other animal — or being in any vehicle drawn by the horse.
• If encountering a horse-drawn buggy, maintain a safe following distance and leave plenty of room when passing. Passing too closely may startle the horse, causing it to suddenly change direction.