Amish Buggy Accidents and Distracted Driving
Recently in Indiana, a rash of accidents between motor vehicles and horse-drawn buggies illustrate the dangers of distracted driving. In Elkhart County, two crashes—one on May 29, 2016, and one on June 2—have highlighted this serious problem.
In the May 29 accident, a teenaged girl rear-ended a buggy that was carrying a 6-week-old baby, along with the child’s Amish parents, on Indiana State Road 13. The 17-year-old driver said, because she was distracted, she did not notice the buggy until she was unable to avoid the accident. In the June 2 accident, a buggy containing an Amish woman with her 4-year-old child was rear-ended by a distracted driver.
Even though no life-threatening injuries occurred in either recent accident in Elkhart County, these crashes demonstrate that drivers can overestimate how much time they have until they reach a buggy. Often, they do not try to pass or slow down soon enough. In 2015, animal-drawn vehicles and motor vehicles were involved in 20 crashes in Elkhart County, Indiana, alone.
A less fortunate result of a buggy-motor vehicle accident occurred in early May, 2016, in Wayne County, Indiana. A 17-year-old Amish male from Economy, IN, died when his buggy was struck by one car and sideswiped by another. The teen was thrown into the path of a third car and died at the scene.
Cory Anderson, a doctoral candidate at Ohio State University, examined the reasons behind buggy crashes in a number of Amish and Old Order Mennonite settlements. Anderson was able to establish that one of the main reasons for the accidents is drivers thinking buggies are traveling faster than they actually are, resulting in the drivers coming up behind the buggies much faster than they thought they would. Drivers were also found to demonstrate risky behaviors such as distracted driving, driving while impaired, and passing buggies carelessly.
It only makes sense, if you are in “plain” country, that you pay greater attention to buggies and other non-motorized vehicles and decrease your speed. It’s all too possible to come upon a buggy quickly and then be unable to avoid a tragic accident.
Remember that the third-largest Amish population lives in Indiana, following the residents in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Indiana’s largest and oldest Amish communities can be found in Elkhart and LaGrange counties. While some roads in the area have buggy lanes, a number of them do not. We at McNeely Stephenson hope you will exercise all due care when driving in Amish areas.
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