Amish Buggies

Amish Buggy v Car Accidents

The 97th District contains a significant Amish population.  Amish buggies on the road are a common sight and part of what gives our communities their ambience and rural character.  Unfortunately, we are seeing a rise in Car v Amish Buggy accidents, and Facebook is full of conversation about what can be done about it.

Unfortunately, the Amish don’t Facebook, so I took a few minutes to meet with several members of the community at a local general store today.  Daniel and I have mutual friends in the Amish Community, and our conversation over seeds and pickles was punctuated by at least half a dozen customers coming in an buying strips of striped, reflective tape.

Amish Buggies are like any vehicle

We share our roads with Amish Buggies, just as we do with any other vehicular traffic.  With both cars and buggies, driving habits vary between drivers.  Some take the full travel lane, some tend to hug the shoulder- especially at night or in bad weather with limited visibility.  Lighting on buggies varies by community, in Clare they tend to use electric lights.  The buggy I examined had a large reflective triangle on the back, two red electric lights in the rear and two white lights in the front and turn signals.  There were no rear or side windows in the back, but the cab had front and side windows.  The buggy was non-reflective black.

In other communities a single red kerosene lantern is on the left rear of the buggy, but Daniel informs me they are going to two red lanterns, but this is determined by the Amish Communities rather than the state.  Mandating a standard design of buggy, mandating the use of electric lights, or requiring the buggies be painted high visibility colors would infringe upon and meet resistance from the Amish Community and involve religious freedom issues.  If representatives of the community would participate, I would support developing suggested safety guidelines for lighting and reflective tape.  It is my understanding Joel Johnson, our current representative, is working on this, and I would continue his efforts if elected.

Additional Solutions

Increasing the visibility of Amish Buggies is only part of the solution.  But the accident rates do not change significantly by simply putting tape on the back of the buggy, and I don’t believe that painting the buggies Day-Glo orange will help much more.  Good driving habits for both buggies and cars will help, and so will reducing travel, if possible, during times of low visibility and in the dark.

One thing that Daniel and I discussed was the use of what he refers to as ‘Amish Haulers’.  While most routine local travel is performed by horse, long distance travel requires the use of vans and drivers.  Although these drivers (most are retired truck drivers that like to travel) basically are paid their costs, meals and very little pocket money for their time, they are required to have chauffeurs/commercial licenses.  We can look at this to make it easier for these informal community shuttles.

In the End-

Road courtesy is always helpful.  This is Amish Country and buggies are on the roads.  We need to be vigilant and expect to see them.  Buggy use at night and in poor visibility should be avoided if possible.  I support the use of electric lights on the buggies as a safety measure, but we have to respect the community and their beliefs- basically we have to allow them to come to that decision rather than dictate it to them.  When driving we are responsible for our vehicles and our safety, and ‘we’ includes the Amish.

As a State, we need to look at appropriate regulations.  I was having a conversation with my friend Dave Coker not long ago about bicycles (he and his family are avid cyclists).  There are bills currently pending that declare cyclists, pedestrians and those using motorized wheelchairs ‘vulnerable persons’- akin to the status of workers in construction zones.  Why don’t we add Amish Buggies to this category.  And while we’re at it, why not consider those on motorcycles as well.  All these groups are especially vulnerable in an accident with a car, let’s put some incentive in place to look out for them.


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