GRAFTON, Mass. - I have received several inquiries about motorists coming upon horseback riders so I decided to reprint this column from last year.
QUESTION: It is my understanding that as a driver approaching a horseback rider, I need to stop and wait for the rider to signal me that it is safe to pass them and that I need to do so slowly as horses are unpredictable and I do not want to see anyone hurt. I have seen drivers fly by horses and I have seen horseback riders who look at me like "why are you stopped?" What are the rules of driving when coming upon someone riding a horse?
ANSWER: The wonderful thing about living in New England is the fact that from time to time, you can still come across someone riding a horse or horse and buggy on one of the scenic back roads. A partial list of Grafton roads where motorists are likely to come upon someone riding on horseback includes; Brigham Hill Road, Old Upton Road, Browns Road, Keith Hill Road, George Hill Road, Merriam Road and Upton Street.
The operator of a motor vehicle should take special precautions when approaching a horse and rider so as not to frighten the horse causing him to run off unexpectedly. Here are some good rules to follow when approaching a horse and rider. The following information comes right out of the Massachusetts Driver's Manual that may be found online at www.mass.gov/rmv/dmanual.
Always give the right-of-way to any animal that someone is leading, riding, or driving. Animals are easily frightened by motor vehicles so when you approach any animal or horse-drawn vehicle, remember to be careful:
- Slow down.
- If the animal or vehicle is coming toward you or is crossing your path, stop and allow the animal to pass.
- If the animal or vehicle is traveling in the same direction you are, allow plenty of room for passing safely, and use reasonable speed.
- Do not sound your horn or make a loud noise.
- If the animal you are passing appears frightened, you must pull your vehicle to the roadside and stop.
- Proceed only when it is safe.
- You must stop if a rider or driver signals you to do so.
In rural areas, take extra care when passing “hay rides,” which are usually animal drawn and full of passengers. The law applies to horses, cows, and any other draft animals.
The exact statute for the above is in the MA General Laws as follows:
Chapter 90 (Section 14) Precautions for safety of other travelers
Every person operating a motor vehicle shall bring the vehicle and the motor propelling it immediately to a stop when approaching a cow, horse or other draft animal being led, ridden or driven, if such animal appears to be frightened and if the person in charge thereof shall signal so to do; and, if traveling in the opposite direction to that in which such animal is proceeding, said vehicle shall remain stationary so long as may be reasonable to allow such animal to pass; or, if traveling in the same direction, the person operating shall use reasonable caution in thereafter passing such animal…
Anyone with questions for the Chief’s Column may submit them by mail to the Grafton Police Department, 28 Providence Road, Grafton, MA 01519. You may also email your questions or comments to email@example.com. Please include an appropriate subject line, as I do not open suspicious email for obvious reasons.
Normand A. Crepeau, Jr.
Chief of Police