Webster County, Missouri Amishman Emanuel Schwartz shares his road safety concerns with a news station in this video. Schwartz would like the Missouri DOT to create more buggy pull-offs on a dangerous stretch of highway. These are particularly important in hilly areas or on curves where visibility is poor.
Amish take into account road traffic when founding a new community. However that is just one of many factors that enter into the decision. The Webster County Amish settlement (also referred to as the Seymour community, after the name of a nearby town) has been around since the late 1960s. Since that time the county’s population has more than doubled. Schwartz notes there are now more buggies and cars traveling busy Highway 38, where a number of Amish homes are located.
This story made me wonder how much is spent to enhance safety for the relatively tiny horse-and-buggy population (though such enhancements should also mean a safer experience for automobile drivers who share those roads). If I had to guess? I’d suspect the total sums are not great compared to other road and highway expenditures.
Some improvements are more costly than others. Putting up a yellow buggy warning sign is relatively cheap (at least, I hope it’s cheap). Widening roads and adding lanes takes a lot more in money and time. A study investigating the per-capita expenditures and benefits of different projects would be worthwhile.
States have to make investment decisions based on budgets which are by definition limited. If project A gets funded that may mean project B does not. Why one project goes forward and another does not has to do not only with the finances available but also things like feasibility and public pressure.
And that brings us to the second reason this story is interesting. It’s reported Schwartz was actually the one who contacted the news station about his concerns. Normally these “Amish” stories originate from the other direction.
So here we see Amish turning to a media they typically avoid, to help publicize an issue, and one would assume, to garner public support and awareness. This is not common, though not unprecedented. For example, a couple of years ago Amish in Geauga County, Ohio brought a news crew along to film what it’s like to travel by buggy with cars whipping by at high speed.
My conclusion is that Schwartz must be especially concerned to take this step. The Geauga County video was made after a buggy was hit from behind and a pregnant women died. Perhaps Schwartz does not want to wait for something that tragic to happen.
In the video, the soft-spoken, Southern-drawled Amishman is careful to only appear filmed from behind, of course. I wonder if his appearance will have the effect he desires.