Fatal Kentucky Accident Highlights Debate on Amish Buggy Signs

812926_amish_carriage.jpgIn recent months, a debate has arisen in Kentucky regarding the Amish, a group of religious individuals known for their quiet, unassuming lifestyles. Because of their religious beliefs, certain Amish sects are refusing to display signs on their buggies that designate them as slow-moving vehicles and make them more visible. The sign is an orange reflective triangle. Some of the more traditional Amish sects, such as the Old Order Swartzentruber Amish, feel the color of the sign is too bright and contradicts their religious beliefs against wearing bright colors. Relying on manmade signs to keep them safe also goes against their beliefs. Several men have been fined for not displaying the signs on their buggies, and some have landed in jail, refusing to pay the fines because that would be admitting their guilt and putting governmental laws above their religious laws.

On November 17, 2011, a 19-year-old Amish man was driving a horse-drawn, two-wheeled cart in Hart County in southern Kentucky. He stopped in the road near his home and was rear-ended by an SUV and thrown from the buggy. He was flown to a hospital, but died en route. Although his sect normally displays the reflective sign on their buggies, his cart did not have a sign. This car accident is still under investigation and it is unclear whether the reflective sign would have prevented the accident.

Kentucky is not the only state struggling with this situation. In Iowa, the Swartzentruber sect also refused to display the slow-moving reflective triangle and some of the members were fined. The sect and the state reached a compromise by allowing the sect to use reflective tape and brighter lanterns to make the buggies more visible. In Michigan, officials refused to post slow-moving vehicle signs because the Amish community refused to use the reflective slow-moving triangles on their buggies. Perhaps because of these differing views, accidents involving Amish vehicles are all too common. There were 140 accidents involving cars and buggies reported in Ohio in 1998, four of which were fatal.

Whether or not horse-drawn carts or buggies have reflective triangles, drivers of motorized vehicles can take certain precautions to help avoid accidents with them. If you are driving in an area that has a large Amish population, be aware of potential slow-moving vehicles. Look for signs depicting Amish buggies that mark roads that are heavily traveled by these vehicles if you are unfamiliar with the area. Do not become distracted by cell phones or radios in the car. Do not drive above the posted speed limit. If you are driving behind a horse-drawn vehicle, allow plenty of room to stop if the vehicle in front of you stops since buggies or carts may not be equipped with taillights. Allow extra time for buggies to cross intersections or turn corners before proceeding.


Sources:

Amish death fuels argumentt; Grayson County News Gazette; Brittany Wise Hatfield; November 27, 2011

Amish teenager dies after SUV hits buggy; The Courier-Journal; Bruce Schreiner; November 20, 2011