By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Amish life, modern world
Amish crash.jpg
Two passengers in this carriage were injured in April 2018 when it was struck by a car in front of Chicken Chef. Members of the county’s Highway and Bridge Committee have discussed safety measures to prevent a collision on a rural road where the speed limit is 55 mph.
Amish sign.jpg
Warning signs have been placed in areas where horse and buggy travel is steady.

An attempt to keep Amish residents of Warren County safe as they travel is proving to be an uphill battle for Road Superintendent Levie Glenn.

“The only thing we can do is to put up signage on the roads they travel so people will be watching for them,” said Glenn. “We don’t want any of them to get hurt. We don’t want them to go against their way of life. This is for the safety of them and their kids and families. I’ve heard we’ve really had some close calls with some motorists nearly hitting some of them.”

Depending on the fitness of the horse, carriage horses trot between 10 and 15 mph. Unless otherwise posted, county roads are 55 mph.

The situation was again under discussion by the county Highway and Bridget Committee. Commissioner Gary Prater said Amish residents traveling at night makes the speed difference between the two modes of transportation even more hazardous.

“The Amish are starting to travel a lot at night. It’s almost impossible to see them until you’re right up on them,” said Prater. “We’re having a problem in the Morrison and Centertown areas. Levie talked to the Road Superintendent in Lawrence County and he said he’s been having to deal with it for years and there’s pretty much nothing anybody can do about it. They’ve taken them to court and lost.”

Committee members said it’s their understanding that safety takes a backseat to religion if a rule contradicts a religious belief.

State law requires motorized vehicles using the roadway to meet certain standards – including the use of front and rear lights at night and that all slow-moving vehicles traveling less than 25 mph to use reflective triangles.

When asked after the meeting about regulations, state trooper Sgt. Kevin Ballew said carriages traveling at night should definitely have lights that are clearly visible.

“They’re supposed to follow the rules of the road like the motoring public,” said Sgt. Ballew. “Even though it’s a horse and buggy, they still have to follow the rules. They are supposed to have lights at night.”

Resident Andrew Dunn told committee members he doesn’t believe Amish travelers should be allowed to create a traffic hazard and endanger others.

“I almost hit one,” said Dunn of an Amish buggy. “I thought they would at least have to have a light that shines 100 feet like we do. This country is built on discrimination now. If I go down the road at night in my truck and no lights on and a cop passes me, they are going to get me. If I have a taillight out, they’ll get me. They can run down the road blind and nothing can be done.”

Dunn says he is forced to use reflective triangles on any of his slow-moving vehicles.

“I’m a farmer, and I’ve had to buy 12 of those things,” said Dunn. “I even have one on my Gator because a deputy pulled me over. I go from farm to farm to farm checking cows. Because I’m on the road with it, he said I had to have a slow-moving sign because it goes under 25 mph. They don’t even use those. It’s not right.”

Dunn says he’s not against the Amish or their religion, but he is concerned about safety.

“I work with two or three of them. I’m not against them, but it’s not unreasonable that they stay off the road from sunset to sunrise. They have black horses, black buggies and wear black outfits. You can’t see them. This is a public safety issue. Someone is going to get hurt.”

Prater agree, but awareness through the placement of signs is all the Highway Department can do. 

“The only thing we can do, as a Highway Department, is to put up more signs,” said Prater. 

Glenn added, “We started doing that when they first started moving in. We’re concerned with their safety. We don’t want to see anyone get hurt, but this is a law enforcement issue. As far as the county Highway Department, all we can do is install signs and alert motorists to their presence.” 

The department will be placing more signs, as needed, to warn motorists of the danger.