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Horses and the California Vehicle Code

EQUESTRIAN QUESTION FORUM: by Lisa L. Lerch, Esq. I often need to ride my horse on the street to access trails. What are the rules of the road for horseback riders? This is a great question. The California Vehicle Code provides three code sections that specifically address equestrian issues. CVC ? 21759 states " The driver of any vehicle approaching any horse drawn vehicle, any ridden animal, or any livestock shall exercise proper control of his vehicle and shall reduce speed or stop as may appear necessary or as may be signaled or otherwise requested by any person driving, riding or in charge of the animal or livestock in order to avoid frightening and to safeguard the animal or livestock and to insure the safety of any person driving or riding the animal or in charge of the livestock." If you are on horseback and indicate to a car that you need it to slow down or stop to avoid a problem then the driver needs to respond appropriately. If the driver fails to respond and an injury occurs, the driver may be found liable for any and all damages that flow from the accident. CVC ? 21050 states " Every person riding or driving an animal upon a highway has all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division and Division 10 (commencing with ?20000), except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application." While horseback riding, you are for all intents and purposes considered a driver on the road and need to follow all applicable traffic laws. Some things riders can do to keep themselves safe and be in compliance with the law are signal appropriately, yield when necessary and stop at traffic lights. When an automobile driver doesn't have to guess what your next move will be chances are everyone will stay safe. CVC ? 21805 states "(a) The Department of Transportation, and local authorities with respect to highways under their jurisdiction, may designate any intersection of a highway as a bridle path or equestrian crossing by erecting appropriate signs. The signs shall be erected on the highway at or near the approach to the intersection, and shall be of a type approved by the Department of Transportation. The signs shall indicate the crossing and any cross marks, safety devices, or signals the authorities deem necessary to safeguard vehicular and equestrian traffic at the intersection. (b) The driver of any vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to any horseback rider who is crossing the highway at any designated equestrian crossing, which is marked by signs as prescribed in subdivision (a). (c) Subdivision (b) does not relieve any horseback rider from the duty of using due care for his or her own safety. No horseback rider shall leave a curb or other place of safety and proceed suddenly into the path of a vehicle which is close enough to constitute an immediate hazard." Riding in Southern California we should all be familiar with the yellow equestrian crossing signs. These are for our use and safety and provide us with the right-of-way. However, common sense still needs to prevail. If you see a car is not slowing, do not proceed. The horseback rider is required to wait until they are able to cross safely. A horseback rider who proceeds in an unsafe manner and causes an accident may be liable for the damages that result from that accident. Know your rights and responsibilities and ride safe. This article is meant to provide general information only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The information in this article is not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship between attorney and reader. The contents of this article are not a substitute for seeking the advice of legal counsel. Copyright 2007. Legal Equestrian, a Professional Law Corporation All rights reserved.

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