Should horses have been on highway?

February 12, 2009

Neal Wagner -

 

A New Hampshire man whose horse-drawn carriage was struck by an 18-wheeler Tuesday afternoon near the Noxubee-Kemper county line remained in the hospital in serious condition this morning, according to his sister. 

 

“As far as I know, he is still listed in serious condition,” Kathy Sagan, a North Carolina resident, said of her brother, Bob Skelding. “You always want to keep a close watch during the first few days, just to make sure his condition doesn’t change suddenly or anything.” 

 

Skelding sustained non life-threatening head injuries shortly before noon Tuesday after an 18-wheel tanker truck struck his horse-drawn recreational vehicle while both were traveling on Highway 45 South, according to the Mississippi Highway Patrol. The RV was destroyed and two of his four horses died. 

 

As of this morning, the two surviving horses, Doc and Joyce, were in good condition, according to an employee at Dr. William Calvert’s veterinary clinic in DeKalb. 

 

At the time of the collision, the RV was traveling about 5 mph and the truck was traveling between 65 and 70 mph, according to the MHP. 

 

 

 

Was the law followed? 

 

Since the accident, many have written and called The Dispatch citing concerns over the legality of Skelding’s vehicle on a busy, four-lane highway. 

 

“He really had no business being on a major thoroughfare with a horse-drawn RV,” wrote a blogger posting under the name Greg. “Do not take horses on a high-speed highway and do 5 mph in the right-hand lane.” 

 

“I sympathize with this gentleman’s plight,” wrote a blogger who posted under the name Carey Dodson. “However, a very important lesson should be learned regarding horse and buggy traffic traveling on a major four-lane U.S. highway. He would have been much better served to take the Natchez Trace Parkway through Mississippi.” 

 

According to Mississippi traffic regulations, “every person ... driving any animal drawing a vehicle upon a highway shall have the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle under this chapter.” 

 

However, the statute goes on to say any non-motorized vehicle traveling on a road used for “regular vehicular travel” is required to display an orange, triangular slow-moving vehicle emblem on the back of the slow-moving vehicle.  

 

While law enforcement authorities were unable to determine if Skelding’s RV was displaying an orange triangle when it was struck by the 18-wheeler, the RV was displaying the triangle when traveling through Columbus on Saturday. 

 

“We didn’t get any calls about him,” Macon Police Chief Petey Freshour said of Skelding. Macon was the last community Skelding passed through prior to the wreck. 

 

“As far as I’m concerned, it wasn’t any traffic hazard,” Freshour added.  

 

 

 

Outpouring of support 

 

Since the wreck, a public outpouring of support has appeared on Dispatch comments and message boards at www.cdispatch.com. More than 160 comments have appeared beneath two stories on the Web site, with well-wishers from across the country offering condolences for Skelding, his family and his horses. 

 

“Our hearts sunk with this news,” read a blog posted by employees at the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station in New Hampshire. Before setting out on his journey, Skelding worked as an electrical maintenance instructor at the power plant. 

 

“It’s a darn shame his travels had to end like this,” wrote a blogger posting under the name Chris. “I hope he gets well and continues his travels of this great and wonderful country. I like his blog (www.wagonteamster.com). He has met some very nice people along the way.” 

 

The Macon Beacon has established an aid fund for Skelding and his surviving horses at the Macon branch of Citizens National Bank. Anyone wishing to donate to the fund should call 662-726-5861, mail a check to Citizens National Bank at P.O. Box 426, Macon, MS, 39341, or visit any Mississippi Citizens National Bank. Checks should be made out to “The Bob Skelding Wagonteamster Benefit Fund.”