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Driving Poorly Near a Horse Trailer Makes You a Jerk, Part 1: Let’s Talk Damages

“I do my best not to crush you. Please show my horses and me the same respect.” Mel Harms-Grossman shares tales and tips for sharing the road in a three-part series.

Recently, I’ve had the displeasure to travel through several metro areas with a trailer load of horses. On one occasion, a woman passed the rig in a construction zone, cut in front of my truck and stopped suddenly. The immediate nightmare of collision was avoided because I locked up my brakes, burned some rubber and moved as far as I possibly could to avoid the other vehicle. However, my horse and truck were not spared damage.

This incident was completely avoidable by the driver of the car. Had she respected the size, contents, weight and necessary stopping distance required by the rig, we would never had a near brush with vehicle damage. Monetary damage is one of the most notable on the list of damages, but what about the “less seen” effects of accidents or near accidents? What can we do as drivers of these vehicles? What would you or I want all the “other” drivers to know about this issue?

Monkey at Large/Flickr/CC

Please note that driving with the horse’s head out the window is NOT an appropriate or safe way to travel! Monkey at Large/Flickr/CC

Let’s Talk Damages

We will start with the more obvious and move to those we think of less. I’m sure there are others to add to the list, so I’m open to additions!

1. LIFE

A notable concern for the individual driving the truck and trailer, passengers, animals and any others in vehicles near the incident. Any person or horse involved in a vehicle accident can suffer damage or lose their life. That is a fact. We are lucky if we come out of any accident with our lives. As we add a trailer, animals, extra weight and the necessary increased stopping distance, we only heighten the chance of a life being lost. Average cost for loss of life is over $1 million per person in an accident according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Horse prices of course range from free to millions. In my opinion, no amount of money can replace any sort of life.

2. MEDICAL

While medical issues are the lesser of the two major concerns with accidents, they’re still important. Initial damage can range from minor to life threatening. Doctor visits, ER visits, ambulance rides, and follow-up visits all add up. Any special breaks, surgery or extended hospital stays all increase overall costs. Over $61,000 per person is spent on average for non-fatal accident injuries. Although the statistics do not specify that the cost increases with any “type” of traffic accident, it would stand to reason that whenever one adds speed and weight to a situation, it increases the chance for greater damage.

3. EQUIPMENT AND PROPERTY

These are replaceable items, but no less expensive and can include damage to the vehicle(s) involved, damage to the trailer, damage to any items on board, damages to other vehicles, buildings, signs, construction equipment and roadways in the vicinity. Average property damage costs are over $7,500 per incident. One can insert the cost to replace the vehicle they drive and the trailer they pull. A conservative number for total vehicle and trailer replacement (used equipment) would be over $35,000.

Photo by John Bentley

Managing editor Kristen Kovatch’s husband, father-in-law and two draft horses fortunately escaped this wreck with injuries when a driver ran a stop sign and cut across their path. The truck and trailer were totaled. Photo by John Bentley

4. ANIMAL MEDICAL

Are there scratches and scrapes on your animal? Consider yourself lucky! Is your horse bleeding, non-responsive, in shock or in pain? All of these things cost money to repair. When I worked as an animal technician, vehicle accident bills were some of the largest handed out. Those bills came in the same range as major surgery. My personal horse was fortunate in his near accident to only need chiropractic services and supportive pain therapy. It still cost me several hundred dollars when I never even touched the other vehicle with my own. Six ribs, one poll and one pelvis adjustment later, he seems to feel better. I’m still quite angered about the situation, but feel fortunate the outcome was not worse.

5. INSURANCE

Can you say policy increase? Whether “at fault” or not, the amount of accident pay outs in this country by insurance companies dictate the yearly policy increases we all feel. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that no one enjoys paying for other drivers to take huge risks or practice inattentive or intoxicated driving. From personal experience, my insurance increases $25 to several hundred per period. Even if that is over several years, it is still tough to come up with the extra dollars. As with all business, margins in the equine business are tight. However, insurance is not an item I skimp on.

6. RENTAL

Does the accident cause you, your family or horse(s) to be stuck in a location far from home? Let the rental costs begin! A vehicle to run accident-related errands, a rig to transport your horse, a hotel to hold up in, a stable or clinic to leave your horse at? I’m not even going to venture a guess here at costs of doing business without the proper resources.

7. INCONVENIENCE / TIME LOST

Here is the stuff we don’t often think of. Did you already pay show entry, stall fees, drug fees, coaching fees and hotel for the event you may not attend? That is a loss. What about the time you use to call the cops, your insurance company and others for clean-up, health, travel and new lodging? It all takes time and dollars that you could have used to do other things. Save your receipts and take note of the time spent. I would consider adding value to this item by taking the amount of time spent times the normal “work” wage you would earn per hour. If you are salaried, divide your salary by the figure 2080 (standard work hours per year) and then multiply by time spent.

Final Thoughts
The roadways are shared by many. Those diving larger tow vehicles with a trailer need your consideration to keep themselves and their cargo safe. By the same token, you need our consideration in order not to get squashed. Please practice safe driving to support humans and animals in transit.
For over 10 years Melissa (Mel) Harms-Grossman has successfully trained horses for show at halter, reining, barrels, poles, ranch reining, trail, western pleasure and more recently ranch horse pleasure and western dressage. She enjoys starting colts, providing continuing education for started horses, finishing show horses & working to build confidence in trail horses. One of her proudest accomplishments is helping clients attain show goals of exhibiting at AQHA and FQHR World Shows. Mel trains horses at her own SunRunner Ranch in Buffalo, Minnesota.

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