Horses, cars safely sharing Maine roads

On May 13, Cathy Pressey took herself for what she calls her “Mother’s Day Road Ride.”

A horse owner living in Mechanic Falls, she usually takes her ride on wooded trails, but this year the trails were too wet so she and her horse ventured out for a ride along Route 124.

Large traffic signs warn motorists to expect to see horses and riders on that road. But when Pressey crossed a bridge and encountered two cars, a motorcycle and an 18-wheeler, not one of these vehicles slowed down in deference to Pressey and her horse, even though it’s the law in Maine to do so.

Maine statute — Title 29-A, Chapter 19, section 2055 —  clearly governs how motorists are to pass horses and riders.

• If we’re driving in the same direction, we must slow down and use reasonable caution in passing the animal.

• If traveling in the opposite direction, and the horse is clearly frightened, we must stop our vehicles and stay stopped until the horse and rider have passed.

• We can’t throw stuff at horses and we can’t purposely startle them.

We are not supposed to scare these animals because it endangers the rider. Yet, people do it all the time.

And, according to Pressey, a 62-year-old woman who has been riding on Maine roads for the past 41 years, it’s getting worse.

Maybe that’s because the civil penalty for violating the statute is a mere $139, which seems a pittance for a lack of caution that carries such potential for harm.

Think about this from Pressey’s position, atop her horse.

She’s riding along on a steady pace and a car whips by, sometimes passing as close as a foot to her left side. The horse — already jumpy because of whistling wind, barking dogs, children screaming in a nearby yard, a looming thunderstorm, whatever — will naturally move to flee in self-preservation.

And, fleeing might mean darting into the center of the road, directly into oncoming traffic.

Even the most well-trained horses are, fundamentally, driven by instinct.

On Mother’s Day, Pressey was crossing a bridge with low, concrete sides when a tractor-trailer started crossing the bridge in the opposite direction at speed. She motioned for the driver to slow down and he did not. “He was ignoring me,” she said, even though she was clearly visible and the horse was agitated.

The horse, she said, “got shook up and turned sideways” across the lane. She managed to bring him around pretty quickly, but it was a heart-stopping moment for her as she watched the truck approaching.

If she hadn’t been able to control him, the horse could have continued across the centerline or gone over the side of the bridge. Either option could have meant serious harm to the animal and to Pressey.

That unpredictability of animals is the very reason the law is clear about actions required of drivers approaching animals. Passing slowly is less likely to frighten a horse and allows more leeway for the handler to get a jittery animal under control.

We are certain no driver ignores the law because they want to hurt horses and riders. They ignore the law because they’re in too much of a hurry to yield the right of way, to provide a moment of grace to a rider.

Thousands of horse and vehicle accidents occur every year in this country, injuring hundreds of drivers, passengers and riders. Sometimes, fatally.

Horses are lawfully permitted to travel on our roadways and we are legally obligated to use caution when passing.

Yielding to a horse on the road isn’t just about courtesy. It’s a basic responsibility to ensure safety for ourselves and others.

No motorist should ever be in such a hurry that they’re willing to injure or kill someone to stay on schedule.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

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Catherine Pressey's picture

Horses, cars safely sharing Maine roads

I want to thank J.Meyer for doing the article it was nicely put together and guess we can not do more than that to inform the public, and the public is sure made up of all kinds. The words that were used were partly my words and part the editorial story. Thank you all. Have a nice summer. Guess I'll take a ride out Route 124 want to join me.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Horses, cars safely sharing Maine roads

In good faith I put myself out in the news paper, hoping to educate the public to understanding a small bit more about passing horses on our public roads. I knew quite well that I would be attacked by certain people, it still never fails to amaise me when it happens. But I am not surprised, for I have seen the many motorist that do not slow down one bit. I once again just ask that you drive slow when you see a horserider coming from any direction. This story will continue to go on long after I am gone. And the horsemen that do not band together and make sure that the St. Jeans accept our rights to ride the vehicle of our choice. With out those drivers getting away with not useing due care. Caution is all we ask like you would drive by a school or play ground. And trust the horsemen to know if the animal is as some would say jittery. Slow down that is all we want. Thank you all.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Horses, cars safely sharing Maine roads

All I am asking here is some consideration, for others and how they wish to travel along our public roads. And especially ON BRIDGES we horsemen cross most streams that we can via, any place but the road. Most choose the woods rather than the road. Given the times and cost to the towns some have closed old roads. Now making more horsemen at the mercy of land owners that are already upset with other types of ATV's Some have closed their lands, to all some still allow horsemen. But it only takes a new owner to close the whole trail systems. To any of us, I ask that when someone comes up behind a rider pass in the passing lane. Not while there is an on coming vehicle. Under Maine law a horse has the right to the whole lane. To the center line. So please move to the left of the center line, give your self and us space to better keep, so that if a black cat or a plastic bag comes blowing across the field or if someone is having trash picked up on that day. The horse may think it is a boogy man. Mankind has evolved we have become smarter, the horse is still a flight to safety insticts. Nothing to do with the rider not being able to control said horse. Just like we humans can get jumped or startled some more than others. It is a reflex and it goes back to our premitive side when we were stalked by monsters. When you fly by at a high speed, the wind you make moves the trees to our right, that may make the horse thing the mountain lion is going to get them and then very quickly can move left. When that happens the very next vehicle that is not slowing can face the horse now out on the lane still in its road space. The horse is traffic, and for all of us. Please slow down and share our public roads with riders, carriages. or what ever else is needing to traverse our roads. I have ridden Route 124 for forty years, I used to use the old railroad bed Bridge to cross but land owners long ago close that off. I once could ride from my front door all the way to West Minot on the old rail road bed. Houses are built all up and down the old bed. I do my best to not put you at risk of connecting with me and my horse. I try not to go that way anymore than anyone wanting to take a ride someplace. Mostly I try to go the long way around to the short bridge on Marshall St. Mechanic Falls. That also has bends right on top of it. No warning signs either. But once in a while I cross through to Minot via Bog Brook Bridge on Route 124. the old bridge was 265 feet long. The new one now is as long with guard rails adding to the mix. Once in the funnel to cross you got to keep going no way to move over to a shoulder. The area is posted Equestrian Crossing with signs. That is all. Signs of the times so share the road with a rider. Thanks

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Exactly what is a "secondary road"?

If Rt. 124 in Machanic Falls was any more secondary, it would be a driveway...

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I could not disagree more..

I could not disagree more..

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The law in question was

The law in question was probably enacted when there were more horses on the roads than cars. It is outdated and should probably amended or repealed altogether.

You can't ride a bicycle on the Interstate or the Turnpike; the reasons for that are obvious. It should be equally obvious that with the number of cars on busy roads today, horses and riders should not be allowed on roads that bear Route numbers. Horseback riders should be restricted to secondary roads only.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Horses, cars safely sharing Maine roads

First of all the story about my Mothers day road ride, is an attempt to make all those horsemen out there safer since the article on the TV news. I believe that Paul St. Jean, would wish to control how I use my civil right and right to traverse along or on our public, and I say public road. On foot or otherwise, there are no longer any old public ways open in Minot due to the town voters voting to close them. So as far as route numbered roads that Mr. St. Jean is no surprise that some of you drivers do not want to share the roads with anything that does not go better than fifty miles per hour. I shall continue to ride these roads much like the Amish do. For the most part it is quite enjoyable. To each his own they say, but do not think for one minute that any one of us should try to take those freedoms and rights away. No more is it your right to disregard my safety when you do encounter me or anyone else walking or otherwise.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I cannot take seriously an

I cannot take seriously an equestrian who lays the entire burden of responsibility of complete control of their vehicles on the drivers of said vehicles, and yet, readily admits to being unable to be in full control of her horse who might go jittery or bonkers at any given moment. I'll say it again, if you can't exercise the same level of control over your animal that you expect us, as drivers, to have over our vehicles, then you shouldn't be on a busy road with your animal; I don't care whether it's legal or not. The law of common sense should prevail. The cemeteries are full of people who had the right of way at 4 way stop signs.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Right of way at 4 way stop signs.

Mr. St. Jean, I am not asking you to take seriously my responsibility, I am asking you to take seriously your reponsibility of passing any horsemen with caution, I did not use the word jittery per se. or bonkers sounds to me that your bonkers if you think that I am the only horsemen having problems. I just happen to be the one not afraid of people like you. That once again clearly shows with your words. You do not take an equestrain seriously. And you imply that you are not in full control of your vehicle, now then who is in control, your alter ego. I exercise a very high level of control over my horse. It is you that clearly we horsemen need to be concerned about. You and other like you, that claim your the only one having the right to be on the public roads. As for the 4 way stop signs your probably the one that stops after the other guy. And fails to yeild to he being there first. So therefore guess if you worry about the occasional meeting of a horseback rider. Gosh how on earth do you dare drive, like I said maybe you need to use taxi's. I assure you Mr. St. Jean that I am a good horsemen and I shall do my utmost best to keep you from killing me or my horse. In spite of your self. If you can not control your vehicle than I believe you should turn in your drivers license. Period. Sadly there are some people like you that can not honor anyone else, or chill out and drive safe.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I've made my position clear;

I've made my position clear; you've made yours clear. We agree on nothing other than your legal right to ride a horse on public roads. You can beat this horse to death if you wish, but this Pirate is moving on. There will be no further responses from me to any of your future posts.

Happy trails

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Jason, your right, but....

Jason, you are correct about the stopping distances involved. However there are ways to help prevent startling an animal. Just letting off the accelerator or moving as far to the opposite side of the road might help. I feel the best solution is driver attention. If you can't see a thousand pound plus animal a few hundred feet in fount of you, there's a serious problem.
If this same situation unfolded in Lancaster County Pennsylvania, and you just blew by a horse drawn buggy down there, You'll be shot at sunrise. I'm not kidding, those Amish don't fool around.
Sorry to say that where ever you go, how ever careful you are, there's going to be that small segment of drivers who just don't care. Those are the ones that scare me...

Catherine Pressey's picture

Horses, Cars safely sharing Maine Roads,

Frank Earley it is so ture about the stopping distances, and having been involved with the insurance companies at one point. It is the duty of the driver to control his vehicle. And do not drive beyond the conditions of the road at the time, like passing a police officer, with a vehicle pulled over or any road hazard. For those drivers that do not drive cautiously they are the problem for myself and others, on foot on a cycle or otherwise. What I see is like you say some just do not care, and those indeed concern me, and those are the ones that need to be removed from the road. If you see me out there and I signal you my horse may not seem frightened to you. But you may not see something that I see, that might scare my horse. I am only trying to look out for us all. Sincerely.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Horses, Cars safely sharing Maine Roads,

Frank Earley it is so ture about the stopping distances, and having been involved with the insurance companies at one point. It is the duty of the driver to control his vehicle. And do not drive beyond the conditions of the road at the time, like passing a police officer, with a vehicle pulled over or any road hazard. For those drivers that do not drive cautiously they are the problem for myself and others, on foot on a cycle or otherwise. What I see is like you say some just do not care, and those indeed concern me, and those are the ones that need to be removed from the road. If you see me out there and I signal you my horse may not seem frightened to you. But you may not see something that I see, that might scare my horse. I am only trying to look out for us all. Sincerely.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The best solution would be

The best solution would be for the horse and rider not to be out on the busy roadway in the first place.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Horses, cars safely sharing Maine roads.

The best solution would be for drivers like yourself to understand that you are not the only legal means of transportation on our public roads and some means are grandfathered under law. And so Mr. St. Jean maybe your license should be in question if you wish to endanger others that choose to take a nice slow trip on or along our public roads. I say nice as it could be when drivers much like yourself. Have those attitudes, and your driving a dangerous machine. In the wrong hand for sure. Just chill out a bit and share the road with a rider. It may be your grand daughter or family loveing to ride a horse someday.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Horses, cars safely sharing Maine roads.

The best solution would be for drivers like yourself to understand that you are not the only legal means of transportation on our public roads and some means are grandfathered under law. And so Mr. St. Jean maybe your license should be in question if you wish to endanger others that choose to take a nice slow trip on or along our public roads. I say nice as it could be when drivers much like yourself. Have those attitudes, and your driving a dangerous machine. In the wrong hand for sure. Just chill out a bit and share the road with a rider. It may be your grand daughter or family loveing to ride a horse someday.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Horses, cars safely sharing Maine roads.

The best solution would be for drivers like yourself to understand that you are not the only legal means of transportation on our public roads and some means are grandfathered under law. And so Mr. St. Jean maybe your license should be in question if you wish to endanger others that choose to take a nice slow trip on or along our public roads. I say nice as it could be when drivers much like yourself. Have those attitudes, and your driving a dangerous machine. In the wrong hand for sure. Just chill out a bit and share the road with a rider. It may be your grand daughter or family loveing to ride a horse someday.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Whats on the road makes no difference

A horse riding the edge of the road, a slow moving piece of farm equipment, children walking the edge of the road. It doesn't matter. Not to mention the law requiring you to slow down for emergency vehicles on the side of the road. I know people who have gone to court in many states, for passing to close, or even colliding with farm equipment. The judge always asks the same question, and there is only one answer, and once you have answered it, your guilty. That question is "what would you have done if there were children in the roadway?' You can't answer that question, without admitting guilt. The judge will then explain to you that any person operating a motor vehicle on any roadway, be it an eighteen wheeler of a motorcycle, must maintain full control of that vehicle at all times. Case closed.... Also it makes no difference if the obstacle is legal or not.
I learned at an early age, its better to just pay attention, cheaper too.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"That question is 'what would

"That question is 'what would you have done if there were children in the roadway?'"
Children in the roadway would not be likely to put a couple of metal shoe laden hooves through your windshield in a moment of absolute panic.
Any road that does not have a Route number attached to it can qualify as a secondary road. Jackass Annie Road in Minot is a secondary road; Route 124 is not. It's a state road and highly traveled.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Horses, cars safely sharing Maine roads.

Jackass Annie Road in Minot from Pottle hill down to Route 119, was no more than a wee bit of a path when I started riding this area forty years ago. The Annie road on the upper end is not closed not a public way any longer, though more that likely land owners will not object to horses. The Annie road is not a secondary road. It is a street on the 119 end. As for the kids on the road they are likely to do most anything, run out chasing a ball or riding a bike out of a driveway. You are supposed to have your vehicle under control at all times. And if you do not like sharing a what some of us call secondary road. Stay on the Maine Turnpike because I do not wish to nor do I have a right to be on that pay road. So maybe Mr. St. Jean your should have the state of Maine put in more pay roads and hope you do not have a Moose run out in front of you. I am all for you having you private pay roads. I'd give you my vote if it will make your life happier.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I give up...

.....

Catherine Pressey's picture

Horses, cars safely sharing Maine roads

Please do not give up! just talking about this is education good or bad. Thanks

Jason Theriault's picture

Try again.

Ok, the law reads :

When a person riding, driving or leading an animal that appears to be frightened signals by putting up a hand or by other visible sign, an operator approaching from the opposite direction must stop as soon as possible and remain stationary as long as necessary and reasonable to allow the animal to pass.

An 18 wheeler, loaded, has a stopping distance of 300+ feet. Plus, trying to stop so suddenly could cause an accident. I think what she construed as ignoring her could have as easily been he realized he couldn't stop in time, and the safest bet was to just get passed her.

And when it comes to the roads, the only laws that are absolute are the laws of physics. 88,000 lbs @ 30-40 mph(18 wheeler) > Horse and rider.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Horses, cars safely sharing Maine roads

Jason, in no way did I construed anything, are you saying that the driver of the truck ignored the equestrian crossing sign that is long down the street in the direction he was driving. I was within a equestrian crossing at the time and on the bridge in question. The driver was not speeding, but as you say they can not stop on a dime. More reason if he is in a marked crossing he should decrease his speed, when an equestrian is present. The driver clearly saw me, I was not asking him to stop just slow to a speed that he could stop if he needed too! Most large truck drivers are very considerate, when they in fact can see us. And most riders that hear one coming make sure we either pull as far off the road as we safely can or make our selves visible. So as for your laws of physics all the more reason for the driver to crawl by a horsemen on a bridge, and a marked crossing. And share the bridge with a rider. With no other way to cross the stream or brook where ever it may lie.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

With bicyclists, motorcycles,

With bicyclists, motorcycles, electric wheelchairs (which somehow have managed to become designated as street legal?), and moronic pedestrians whose parents never taught them squat about how to cross a street, the last thing the average motorist needs to confront while underway is a jittery equine and a rider who isn't capable of controlling the animal.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Jittery equine, and a rider who isn't capable.

The driver being you clearly is not able to ascertain, what someones legal rights are. and the only moron I know is the driver that is unable to control he machine that his is operating. In any given situation. I guess these driver should hire taxi's to transport them because clearly they or you. If you are speaking for yourself, should not be legally on our public roads. Once again share the road with all others your suppose to be in total control of your motor vehicle. At all times, and your are suppose to have a brain that has been taught to do so in a safe manner to be a licensed driver anywhere.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Paul

I would take a rider unable to control her horse over a driver who can't control his car any day of the week. Driving is kind of like the Boy Scouts, you must " be prepared ", and that means for anything. You can not just ban everything you don't like on the roads.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Both are acquired tastes. I

Both are acquired tastes. I believe I said amend or abolish. The current law in its present form just isn't consistent with road conditions as they prevail today. I have nothing but respect for horses and their riders, although I cringe every time I come upon them, which is pretty infrequent, I might add.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Horses, cars safely sharing maine roads.

What you said Mr. St. Jean is you want to take my civil right to ride the public road away, because you clearly do not know how to correctly pass a horsemen. Or any slower moving vehicle, I was trained to slow to the speed of the vehicle that I was overtaking and pass that vehicle (and a Horse is a legal vehicle in Maine) at a speed no greated that the speed that, that vehicle is going, now most horses walk at five miles per hour, and if you at least slowed down and then passed in the passing lane. Meaning to move to the left of the center line. Most horse riders will motion you by them if they feel it is safe. You just said you infrequently find one on the road, so what is the problem with slowing down and then passing safely. Share the road with a rider, it may be your family member one day.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I've never had an equine

I've never had an equine encounter that did not go harmoniously for all participants. You seem to be the one who's having the problems. Poor choice of riding roads, maybe? What's next on your list, the Interstate?

Catherine Pressey's picture

You never had an equine encounter that.

You never had one that you new that you left the horse in the ditch by flying past at your intended speed. As for my choice I live right within feet of Rt. 124 and have no choice to leave Mechanic Fall for you or anyone from my side of town to get to Minot I have no choice but to cross our public Bridge. Yes Mr. St Jean our Bridge we both have the right to be there. So get used to the idea I am not going any place yet. And once again if you had no problem with equine encounters than why the attitude. Why the attack on equestrians or me, In you own words you cringe when you see one, an horseback rider. Seems like your a wee bit unsure of you driving ability. So I'll tell you what since you have a choice on which road you take please stay off Rt. 124 we all will feel better. And as for the Interstate, to bad that they did not have more of those roads for you to pay to use. And stay off our secondary roads and you can drive, to endanger all you want untill you hit that moose. have a good day! You can reply dear Sir: I'll have no more to say to you. I got your No. LOL

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Don't apologize for being right....

Catherine:
I'm not sure how they link reply's and posts with everyone, but your reply ended up in my mail box somehow. I'm glad it did. I was the guy going back and fourth with Mr St. Jean, at times I would rather have been arguing with one of your horses. I just wanted to mention a couple of things that will at least let you know your not alone.
First of all, I was a trucker for many years, there are two things I'm passionate about, safe driving and the rights of the disabled. When ever I see an issue that needs attention and I have full knowledge of it, I go to town. The article about you caught my eye.
As I mentioned, I drove professionally for many years. I feel that that qualifies me to know the difference between good driving and bad. I also grew up in a household with horses. I've been around them all my life.
Your article bought to the attention of a lot of people, the dangers of encountering a horse along the side of the road. I strongly feel that a prudent driver, obeying the rules of the road, should have no problem encountering a horse along the road. Unfortunately, prudent drivers, are as rare as people obeying the rules of the road. How ever, the article did what I think you would have wanted it to do. It created dialogue, that's a very strong tool in educating the general public. There are now a whole lot more people than there were two weeks ago who know the proper way to approach and pass a horse on the road.
Keep taking your rides, and don't let anyone tell you you shouldn't use a public road, I would like to join you, except that although I have been around horses all my life, I never quite got the hang of riding one, I'm wicked good at falling off of them though. I travel 124 all the time, just for pleasure, I'll be the guy slowing down and staring, and saying , I wish I could do that....

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"I would rather have been

"I would rather have been arguing with one of your horses". Nice, especially when in the third person.

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