There’s been a discussion recently over whether Amish in Pennsylvania should have their buggies registered and carry license plates, just like motor vehicles.

Young Center Senior Scholar Steven Nolt recently appeared on WITF’s Smart Talk to discuss the issue. Here’s the back story:

Drive behind a Amish horse and buggy in Pennsylvania and you’ll see a fluorescent orange, triangular placard attached to the gray and black buggy and maybe a few cute kids too.

However, if a proposal in the State House becomes law, you’ll see something else — a Pennsylvania license plate. Democratic Rep. Mike Hanna of Centre County wants Amish to register buggies like other vehicles and display license plates as well. The money derived from the registration would go toward road repairs where the steel wheels of the buggies have caused damage.

Currently, Indiana is the only state which requires plates on buggies (though on a county-by-county basis – Adams County, for example, does, while nearby Allen County evidently does not).

The fees in question would be $36 per vehicle registration.




Steve explores the issue in this audio interview, giving a nice overview of Amish custom and buggy design in general. A few things you’ll learn:

  • Buggy drivers are not required to be licensed, though there are buggy safety courses
  • Children start driving at different ages, varying by family. Seventh or eight-graders, for instance, may drive a pony cart to school
  • One new feature in parts of Pennsylvania is something called “airbags”…but they’re not what you think. They’re a special type of cushion rather than elliptical spring, which is supposed to make the ride smoother

The show receives some callers, one in particular with a strong opinion on the issue:

What do you think?