Horse riders call for more protection on NZ roads

  • 06/11/2016
Karen Rutherford (supplied)
Karen Rutherford (supplied)

Horse riders are calling for road rules to be changed to make it safer them on the roads from ignorant drivers.

An online petition that will be delivered to the Transport Minister has already received more than 3000 signatures.

Petition signee Karen Rutherford suffered serious injuries after a foreign driver allegedly drove into her, killing her horse. She says there's not enough protection in the law for riders and their horses.

"You've got to give them a wide berth, you've got to slow down, you've got to stop," she told Newshub.

"As horse riders, we have just as much right to safe passage on our roads as walkers, cyclists and motorists, and it would be great if people could recognise that."

Under current legislation, drivers only have to slow down - the amount isn't specified - and give the rider a 1.5m berth, like you would a cyclist.

Horse riders call for more protection on NZ roads

Karen Rutherford (supplied)

Ms Rutherford wants the speed limit clarified as 20km/h - the same as passing a school bus.

"You've got to be safe around kids - well, it's the same around horses."

The petition also calls for there to be a specific offence of killing a horse, and for horse riders to be afforded the same rights as other road users.

"At the moment under New Zealand law, you cannot be charged for killing a horse, and I think that's an absolute travesty."

Horse riders call for more protection on NZ roads

Some of Karen Rutherford's injuries (supplied)

Eleven weeks on from the accident, Ms Rutherford - a journalist with Newshub - is on the mend, but there is a long way to go.

"I've got a head injury, I've had multiple broken bones, a de-gloved leg and a massive trauma injury. The broken bones have all healed and I'm feeling so much better in that regard, but I'm still dealing with open wounds, a head injury."

She's been told one side of her brain is operating slower than the other, and is waiting for CT scan for more details.

The support she's received from the friends and strangers alike has kept her going. Brea Walker, a 16-year-old rider from Westlake Girls' High, was "so incensed" by what happened to Ms Rutherford, she appealed to the community for support.

"It was really humbling to be presented with dozens of vouchers and gifts, a sculpture in memory of George, two paintings of him by artists, a memorial apple tree, bags of horse seed and products, post-surgery physio, a plane ride for my son - it was just unreal," says Ms Rutherford.

"She's a really gutsy young woman who was so incensed by what happened."

Horse riders call for more protection on NZ roads

Some of the gifts and cards she has received since the accident (supplied)

Ms Rutherford says the support has been humbling.

"For every person that brings you down in life, there are hundreds more who will bring you up again."

She's keen to get back to work, but it will be a slow, gradual process.

The driver accused of killing Ms Rutherford's horse, 28-year-old Peng Wang, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of careless driving causing injury.

The petition has more than 3000 signatures so far.