Is this the next road battle for the Amish? A local news station did an investigative piece on young Amish drivers in Indiana (the Swiss Amish settlements in Allen and Adams Counties). They discovered children aged 12, 11, and even 10 driving horse-drawn vehicles.
If you’ve spent time in Amish communities, that shouldn’t come as a big shock. Amish children learn to drive horse-drawn vehicles from a young age. You’ll even find Amish children younger than 10 piloting pony carts–I’d guess 7 or 8 years old is not unusual for that particular vehicle, though they’re usually not riding on 55-mph highways.
I can understand why it might be unnerving to see children so young operating a vehicle on the road.
Of course, children of all cultures regularly walk rural roads, ride bicycles in the vicinity of traffic, and so on. Buggies are more visible than youngsters rollerblading or on scooters. That said I’m pretty sure there are Amish parents who’d consider 10 too young. A horse may be well trained but can still behave unpredictably. Factors like road traffic and a child’s experience enter the equation. A busy highway in Lancaster County is not the same as a gravel back road in Adams County, Indiana.
The report finds a number of English neighbors supportive of the Amish custom, or at least reluctant to criticize. An Adams County resident says: “I don’t think that anything needs to be changed because I think the majority of Amish people that drive are responsible people and as I said before, most of them are teenagers.”
Another non-Amish person notes that Amish children learn to handle horses from a young age.
However it sounds like there is support for age restrictions for buggy drivers. An Indiana state police officer doesn’t seem too happy that there is no law governing the matter. The station also took the issue to lawmakers and will air that commentary in a follow-up report today.
The video is below. What do you think-should the state intervene on the basis of safety and child welfare, or just leave the Amish alone?
Just a note: this will be the last post for this week as I’ll be having a little family time the next few days. Will still be checking in on comments though, and posting will be back to normal schedule next Monday.