DRIVERS will need to be aware of a new road safety initiative focused on how vulnerable horse riders are.

Operation Close Pass has been used by Dorset Police to educate drivers on the suggested minimum passing distance of 1.5 metres, when it is safe to do so.

When police carry out an Operation Close Pass, 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 any 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 also have the option to view video evidence recorded on cameras fixed to the police officer’s cycle.

Operation Close Pass – Horse Safe follows the same principles as Cycle Safe but is aimed at horse riders and drivers in more rural areas. A leaflet is available from the Road Casualty Reduction Officer in Poole as well as local businesses and pony clubs, and more information can be found on Dorset Roadsafe website

The leaflet reminds the public that road users have equal rights to use the highway safely and helps people understand how to be safe, respectful and considerate around other road users to promote behaviour change. It is packed full of tips for both drivers and horse riders alike.

While the scheme will not include plain clothed police officers on horseback, drivers will still be either educated by the roadside or given a penalty notice if passing a horse too close or too fast.

The launch of the new scheme was held in partnership with Kingston Maurward College in Dorchester on March 8. Martyn Underhill, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Horse riders are a common sight on Dorset’s roads, and the equestrian community plays a really important role in rural life across our county.

“Anyone who knows about horses will realise they can be easily spooked when a car passes too close, so this campaign is about educating motorists to show respect for all road users, and reminding them about the importance of leaving the right amount of space when passing a horse rider – just as they should do when they pass a cyclist.”

Presentations were given by Dorset Police including the work of the Dorset Police No Excuse road offences enforcement team and wider road safety education by the police and Dorset Road Safety Partnership, and by the British Horse Society.