It was just three months ago that three young Amish siblings were killed in a buggy crash in southern Michigan.
Tragically, the story has repeated itself, in another part of the state.
This time, it seems alcohol was not involved.
The driver struck the children’s buggy as they returned home from school.
From Lansing State Journal:
In Wednesday’s crash, the four Amish siblings were in the buggy traveling home from school about 3:20 p.m. when a vehicle struck them from behind on Vermontville Highway near Bradley Road in Chester Township, Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich said.
An elderly man who was driving the motor vehicle was taken to a hospital for evaluation, the sheriff said.
“It’s a horrible, horrible tragedy,” Reich said. “My heart goes out to the family.”
In a news release, officials said sheriff’s detectives and the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office Crash Reconstruction Team are investigating the crash. Victim advocates are assisting the family, “and we will continue to provide our support and resources. We grieve with them,” the release said.
A visibly upset man named Kevin Newton, who drives for Amish families, spoke to the media:
Kevin Newton, who lives in the area where the crash occurred and drives for the Amish, said he was on his way home when he received a phone call about the crash.
“I bawled all the way home,” said Newton, who said he knew the three children killed in the crash. “They’ve got to do something, pass a law or something. They should have more signs out (alerting drivers about buggies).”
This video shows the children’s school, the community, and more comments from several non-Amish residents, including Newton:
Are these accidents preventable? What can be done? Would signs and new laws make a difference?
I would think the driver was a local person, who would already be aware of Amish living in the area.
Indeed, Amish have lived in Eaton County for over 40 years.
It’s not like this is a new settlement of just a handful of people, which locals are just now becoming aware of.
There are three church districts in this community. So that could mean anywhere from 60-120 Amish households, and hundreds of Amish people living here for decades.
Driving safely around Amish buggies
Here are 8 buggy safety tips.
Here’s my 30-second summary of them:
- Slow down when approaching
- Don’t follow too closely
- Leave plenty of space between you and the buggy
- Give extra space when stopped behind a buggy at a stop sign or light
- Don’t blow your horn, it can spook the horse
- Buggies generally stick to the right hand side of the road
- When turning left, they’ll merge towards the center. They may use signals or hand gestures to indicate the turn
- The buggy may be lit at night, but the horse will likely be dark
I’d add another which I’d consider very important: Slow down when going over hills in Amish areas.
It looks by the photos that this may have happened near a hilltop.
It’s not uncommon to top a hill and then find a buggy just over it, right out of sight.
Prayers for the family and community facing this huge loss.
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Other signs to watch for.....
So sad and I feel their loss.
Hilltops are indeed dangerous and so are curves. When ever I’m in Amish country I watch for fresh wheel marks on the road and nothing is better than fresh undisturbed horse droppings. Time of day or day of the week can also signal caution. I’ve also noticed that in Synder County, Pa some motor vehicles who just passed a buggy will flash their high beam headlights to alert oncoming traffic that a buggy is ahead of you.
It amazes me that large tractor trailers do not disturb those horses.
You’re right Jerry, curves especially too. This is where dangerous passing can happen when people get impatient.
Driving in Amish country
I live amongst the Amish and when a buggy is coming in the other direction, I will usually pull to the shoulder and turn off the motor until they pass. If I come up behind one, I stay behind and put my flashers on. Hills and curves are difficult, but it only takes a moment of my time to slow down and give them the right of way. I know that in Virginia, horses have the right of way over motorized vehicles. Check the laws in your own state.
I have thought about this problem and perhaps the best solution would be to mount a strobe light on top of the buggy at the very back, similar to the strobe light used on school buses. There is no 100% solution, especially on hills, however strobe lights should help to alert drivers.
The other thought is that usually, buggies are traveling on the same roadways and they rarely vary their routes. Perhaps on the most dangerous hills, a buggy lane on the right side of the roadway (improved shoulder) could provide an additional layer of safety
What a horrible tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and their community. I’m very glad you also posted as a reminder the tips for driving in Amish country. Thank you
Buggy tips signs in Amish areas?
I feel like there are more than eight tips but those are good ones to know.
From that list, tip #4 does not feel essential as the buggy rolling back and hitting your bumper is only going to cause relatively minor damage, while the other 7 are all relevant to safety at higher speeds.
Thinking about this now, I wonder if there’d be value to a sign containing an abbreviated tips list – something that could be read in 10-15 seconds covering 4-5 main safety ideas – posted in strategic areas where drivers would see them, and could safely read them.
For example, at main stoplights in towns in Amish areas, where drivers waiting at the light could read them.
Or perhaps something similar on billboards in these areas.
Or use those electronic road signs that flash traffic updates to flash buggy safety tips.
The commonplace yellow buggy warning sign is useful. However, it simply tells you there are buggies around – but it doesn’t educate in any way.
Something like this:
SPEED KILLS IN AMISH COUNTRY
1. Amish buggies travel just 5-10 mph
2. Don’t honk your horn
3. Don’t cut them off
4. Be careful when the sun is low (early AM and sunset)
5. Slow down on hills and curves
At work, we have moving traffic monitors and warning system that discloses when there is something moving and to be cautious as you approach, usually the corners in the hallways or in blind areas near the loading docks for trucks, but it would be awesome if these were placed in strategic places where buggies or cars might turn over the crest of a hill…
Deep felt Condolences...
My heart goes out to the family who lost their children to this preventable tragedy. I live in Ohio and when I travel in Amish Country – I always sternly tell my friend(s) who drive their car to SLOW DOWN whenever I see a buggy/horse ahead. I think cars should not be driven around Amish country period… just like in Venezia, Italia… no cars in that providence. Or at least LOWER the speed on roads, too many impatient civilized folks are in an insane mad rush to get to wherever they go. I wonder if there could be more private country back roads for them?
How about lanes?
Towns are always putting up bike lanes. How about bike/buggy lanes for those areas with high Amish traffic, perhaps with a sidewalk median in between. Seems to make sense to me.
Jessica M buggy lanes makes so much sense! My heart aches whenever I read of these types of accidents, just devastating.
I think about this OFTEN!! The horse & buggy people should have buggy lanes just as Jessica mentioned.
They wouldn’t have to be extensive but approx the same width as the bicycle lanes you see all over the place.
I would be willing to bet the road Dept would see a huge reduction in road deterioration that is an ongoing problem in many communities.
In Geauga & Trumbull Cos most buggies travel on the sides of the roads anyways unless they’re filling full steam or it’s only a 2 lane road.
It’s scary and I can’t imagine driving out there in a horse & buggy on the main roads.
This is horrendous
Just my 2 cents. It appears that this accident happened right after the buggy had crested the knob. The driver of the car would not have been very far behind them and would have known they were right in front of him as he was cresting the hill. That means he was absolutely NOT paying attention. Unless he pulled out of a side road at the top of the hill and didn’t see the buggy. Drivers of cars, especially on hilly roads, need to pay attention to what is in front of them at all times. This driver obviously was not doing that. The article states that he was elderly. What is elderly? This accident should never have happened. My heart goes out to the family of the children and the community too.
Slow Down and Pay Attention!
This is so sad and my heart breaks for the family. I think that many of the suggestions that
have been suggested to make buggy travel safer are good and I hope that communities with
Amish populations should seriously consider them. Meanwhile, I think it important for drivers
in these communities to take extra care by driving more slowly, being attentive and never
allowing themselves to be distracted by anything. I live in a rural area in California that is hilly
with steep, winding roads. Many people have lost their lives just a mile, or less, from where I
live because the drivers became distracted and caused a fatal accident. We also have farm
equipment and animal trailers that often go very slow and instead of just realizing this is
part of living where we do, drivers try to pass with disastrous consequences. I really think that if
people cannot accept a slower way of life then perhaps they should consider moving to another
Elderly driver not safe
How about taking the drivers license from the elderly driver who doesn’t appear to be competent! Will he be charged with manslaughter? God bless that family, help them & the children RIP. So sad.
It was reported initially that the driver was elderly; in subsequent reports it seems no more information has been released (in one of the last ones, I believe it was stated that the police were still holding the information of the driver’s identity amid some further investigation).
As far as whether elderly drivers create a greater safety issue – I have not dug into this in much depth, but one study found that while drivers above 65 have higher rates of causing accidents, the youngest drivers are a much greater danger on the roads:
“Drivers 65 and older are 16 percent likelier than adult drivers (those 25–64 years old) to cause an accident, and they pose much less risk to the public than do drivers under 25, who are 188 percent likelier than adult drivers to cause an accident.”
I don’t know how this driver’s competence would be evaluated and decision made to revoke the license; perhaps that has been examined since the accident. An older driver might naturally have a slower reaction time, but the stereotype which anecdotally seems to hold true is that older drivers drive more slowly (which can be its own hazard in some circumstances, like on a fast-moving highway, but generally is probably safer than excessive speeding, which we more often associate with the young).
States do have differing requirements for older drivers. Here’s more on that and the topic as a whole:
The cost involved
Some of the above ideas are good, but who would or could finance them. Amish live of necessity in RURAL areas. Alternate roads, and even added lanes cost a lot of money That is not available. And what farmer is willing to give up his land for wider roads without a fight. And is it fair to ask/ tell him he must? And if you do make a wider shoulder that is no guarantee they will use it. We have that on a local state highway, and the Amish refused to use it! Yes, it was a well made extension of the road, no reason to object. They refused for years and some traveled it daily, sometimes with 20 cars held up behind them. Finally the police stepped in and acquainted the Amish with the fact that Indiana has a law that slow moving vehicles must pull over if more than 3 vehicles are behind them. (that includes farmers as well as Amish.) Now they usually pull over, on that road at least. More signs could help, but marginally, as most drivers on rural roads are locals. Strobe light are out, because some even refuse slow moving vehicle signs. There are no real answers, but just know that it would be unreasonable for a county to put extra lanes or horses only roads. County budgets are strained already. And then there are settlements that thrive, then just move out, as is happening in Hamilton IN right now. I can’t imagine what that would have done to the Steuben county budget to make extra lanes on all those roads.
The man who caused the accident has spoken to the media. The fourth child has been released from the hospital.
EATON COUNTY, MI (WILX) — The Eaton County man who ran into the back of an Amish buggy killing three young siblings is now speaking out about what happened.
Ronald Ramsey, 83, of Vermontville said he was behind the wheel of the SUV that hit the buggy.
The crash happened last Wednesday afternoon on Vermontville Highway.
Ramsey said he was driving into the sun and didn’t see the buggy until it was too late.
Ramsey said it haunts him to think about the three young children who died.