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Drivers urged to watch out for horse traffic due to trail closures in Los Padres National Forest

SUMMERLAND, Calif. - The U.S. Forest Service closure of campgrounds and public activities is sending horse riders in some areas to the lower trails.

The horse traffic is causing some safety conflicts with the public.

Already several problems have been reported in the area of Montecito and Summerland.

Riders report issues with erratic drivers who are not sharing the road.

Some of the hot spots are Sheffield, Lambert Road, Toro Canyon and Ortega Ridge Road.

A complaint has been brought to the attention of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.

The National Forests will not reopen until September 18.

Riders have been advised to report the license number of dangerous drivers or get video shots.

Anne Scott is a Summerland horse owner who says, "we're not trying to ride on the road, we are just trying to get to the the trail head."

She has a 16-year old American Painted horse, Echo.

There are many close calls. "Close enough I could turn my foot out and my spur can hit them and drag down  it  the side of a car," she said.

On one section of Toro Canyon Road, near Highway 192, "they come around  that blind curve, they will never see us.   They will hit us way before they know we are there," said Scott about the risky conditions.

Horses can also get scared easily. "Horses are flight animals and  cause  a great threat to us if they are spooked by a 60 mile-per-hour car coming behind them."

The street has drivers who are rolling off a lot of speed, but not finding a lot of room.

Scott says, "there is two horse crossing signs there, but they are kind of obscured. We think people don't see them   and people don't know the law allowing us to be on the road, and there's no shoulder really on Toro Canyon."

Between drivers coming off the freeway looking for short cuts, and horse riders using the closer trails with the forest closed, the conditions are stressful. "We have a lot of horse people, even though we are losing our horse property, we have a lot of horses here in town and a lot of people who ride a lot."

There are also tourist-oriented rides, sometimes with 10 horses at a time.

 A vehicle collision would be devastating.

"You are riding $60-70,000 dollar horses. One car (crash) their life would be over.  Not to mention the injuries to us."

The California Vehicle Code says:

DIVISION 11. RULES OF THE ROAD [21000 - 23336]

CHAPTER 4. Right-of-Way

(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 crossmarks, 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.

Lifestyle / Outdoors / Safety / Santa Barbara - South County / Traffic / Travel / Video
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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about John, click here.


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