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Slow-moving vehicles and high-speed cars pose an increasing danger on the congested rural roads of Amish country. 

According to the Ohio Department of transportation, there were 140 car-buggy accidents in 1998 causing 4 deaths.  Between 1990 and 1997 more than 500 vehicle-buggy crashes were reported, 66% were caused by a motorist following too closely.  According to the Lancaster Country Planning Commission, there were 68 vehicle-buggy accidents in Pennsylvania in 1996 (38 in Lancaster Country).  Leacock Township lead the list for accidents. 

The Ohio Department of Transportation has been holding public meetings in 1999 to educate the Amish on better buggy lighting, etc.   One of the suggestions from the Ohio meetings has been the use of reflective ankle bracelets for horses.  In November 1999, Kentucky Amish were also holding safety meetings regarding having proper reflectors and lights on their buggies.  Many other states also held meetings.  Between 300-400 Amish have attended but because of the rural locations of the Amish communities it is nearly impossible to reach everyone.

While most states and counties are trying to ensure safer travel for both types of vehicles, an area near Hillsdale/Camden is working against safety.  The country road commissioners will not post signs warning of slow moving vehicles, even though the Amish offered to pay for them.  The commissioners say they will post the signs if the Amish will use reflectors.  There have been numerous accidents in the area with damage to Amish and English alike during 1999.  Michigan law required buggies to have battery-operated lights, a white reflective strip, and a round reflective red light the size of an orange.

There are still problems in some states and Amish communities:

Eight men were fined $328 for refusal to attach the slow moving vehicle signs to their buggies. These men belong to the Old Order Amish community in Iowa.

Because their religion forbids the use of bright colors, the conservative Swartzentruber group has refused to put the slow moving vehicle sign on their buggies. However, they have compromised by putting brighter lanterns and reflective tape on their buggies.




Driving used to be done from the right side of the buggy to avoid the danger of driving into a ditch. But today driving is mostly done from the left side.

The use of certain equipment on buggies is required by law in most states and providence's.  Check your state regulations for their requirements.  

Equipment used on the buggies will vary depending on what is permitted by their Amish community.  When this equipment is used properly, it allows motor vehicle drivers to easily identify the buggy from a great distance.   Buggies should be readily identifiable both by night and day and should be well-lighted.

The vehicle drivers must also follow the rules of the road by not passing in no passing zones, follow posted speed limits, and use caution at crest of hills and bends.

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You can see form this photo taken at dusk, the emblem and lights would be all you could see at night.

Lights and reflectors

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Example of slow moving vehicle emblem, lights, and reflecting tape

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The following items are recommended and in some states required by law.
  • Mirrors - one placed on the drivers side (left side of buggy).  If the driver sits on the right, a mirror should also be placed on the right side.
  • Windows - windows should be placed in line of vision if buggies are closed
  • Reflectors - several round red reflectors should be placed on back of the buggy
  • Reflective tape - tape should outline the sides of buggy
  • Slow-moving vehicle emblem - should be placed on the rear of buggy
  • Harness - worn equipment should be replaced
  • Lights - 2 lights on both the front and back are recommended.  Various communities use different types of lighting such as buggy lanterns, portable dry cell battery lights, or wet cell wired battery lights (this type is becoming the most popular in most communities)

All equipment should be periodically checked and replaced when needed.  Emblems fade.  Worn harnesses break causing lost of control of the horse.  Mirrors should be large enough so that the whole road is visible.  Battery lights should be kept charged.  If lanterns are used, be sure globes are clean.

Reducing the speed limit in these areas would be an easy and inexpensive start to the problem. Ohio has added or widen berms on the roadways is some areas but this is a costly project.


Please drive carefully

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while visiting Amish country.



Reference:  Various web sites (see my link page), newspaper articles,  and the following book "Learning to Drive Safely With a Horse and Buggy" by Pathway Publishers


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December 1999

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