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Amish buggies remain road hazard with early darkness

We have many Amish and Mennonite families in Franklin and St. Lawrence counties. Amish buggies have been granted an exception to the requirement to display a “Slow Moving Vehicle” symbol on the rear of their buggies and wagons for religious reasons. However, after dark and when visibility is less than 1,000 feet, they are required to display a lighted lantern with a red lens at least 4 inches in diameter on the left rear of their buggy, and at least 72 square inches of a high-quality white or whitish-gray reflective tape on the buggy’s rear.

Animal-drawn buggies and wagons are not required to have lights or even reflective tape on the front. That has led to a potentially dangerous circumstance. I was recently contacted by a driver who was traveling east on state Route 11B after dark. The dangerous situation took place when the driver was able to pass a slower vehicle on a straight stretch of the highway and clearly designated as a “passing zone.” However, a westbound Amish buggy was partially in the driving lane. The driver passing the slower vehicle was unable to see the approaching Amish buggy and barely missed hitting it.

The above incident was likely made more dangerous because of the slower vehicle not using his/her high beams like far too many drivers fail to do. Thus, the driver passing could not see the Amish buggy until the last second.

This is not the first time I have been advised of this problem. The exact same situation happened to a Franklin County department head less than a year ago, also on Route 11B.

This time of year, darkness comes early and stays late. A chance of encountering an Amish buggy or wagon on the highway during darkness is very likely. And it will happen when you least expect it.

So a word to the wise driver is to be extra-observant after dark on highways known to be traveled by the Amish people. In a collision between a horse-drawn buggy and an automobile, the buggy and its passengers will not win.

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