As Expected: Amish Cited For Buggy Light Violations, Refuse To Pay Fines

There’s nothing surprising about this. Well, maybe it is surprising to Representatives Scott Wiggam and Darrell Kick, creators of the new law requiring flashing lights on all horse-drawn vehicles in the state of Ohio.

But if they had bothered to actually dig deep into this issue regarding the group it would predictably most effect (Swartzentruber Amish), it might not be so surprising. My suspicion is they did little of that. Back in June, Wiggam addressed the matter with an appeal based in “love”. To recall his quote (via the Wooster Daily Record):

“We put flashing yellow lights on things we love, from school buses to ambulances, and we put flashing lights on emergency vehicles, police and fire,” he said. “Everything we love, we put flashing lights on, especially when you’re talking about scenarios where something bad can happen.

“The speed differential of 35 to 50 miles per hour, something really bad has happened quite often in the state of Ohio, and we want to reduce that,” Wiggam continued. “We think this can be done pretty easily now with the technology available. That’s kind of where we are on this issue. We want to save lives. We all share the roads, and this issue spurred me to move forward with this.”

Wiggam believes in protecting things we love, which puts him in agreement with close to 100% of humanity. But I’d have hoped for more nuance than he provided. Everyone wants to “save lives”.

Referring to the Swartzentruber Amish in areas such as Ashland and Medina County, Kick stated that they were “just not up to speed on the technology”. Quotes like these give me the sense that they don’t really understand these groups too well at all.

Amish appear in court…and will be back in court

So this is starting to unfold in a manner similar to what happened with Swartzentruber Amish in Kentucky in 2011. And here we are with what looks like stage 1 of the process: Amish predictably cited for violations, they show up in court, and refuse to pay their fines. Via Fox 8:

ASHLAND, Ohio (WJW) – Many members of Northeast Ohio’s Amish community are not happy about the enforcement of a new state law that forces them to make their buggies more visible with flashing yellow lights.

Members of the community filed into Ashland Municipal Court on Tuesday morning in a silent protest of the new law.

While the measure is designed to reduce the number of buggy crashes across the state, many Amish elders and church leaders believe the flashing light law violates their traditional beliefs in a simple life.

A number of Amish buggy drivers were cited by deputies with the Ashland County Sheriff’s Office and troopers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol for violating the new law, which went into effect in September, but was not actively enforced until last week.

One by one, each of the violators entered a plea of no contest this morning.

Image: Fox 8

No one spoke in court, though the judge did read a statement:

A portion of the letter read, “a similar law had been in effect in the early 1960’s, which our fore fathers deemed too worldly. We are inclined to still believe so. We had an unanimous vote throughout all of our affiliated churches to not have any blinking lights whatsoever.”

The fine given was $50. All declined to pay it. Paying can be considered akin to admitting guilt. Now each has a court date in January where they’ll have “a hearing to determine their ability and willingness to pay the fines.”

What was the game plan

If the above-mentioned representatives had taken the widely-publicized Kentucky SMV story into account (it got national coverage, just 10-11 years ago), maybe they’d have a sense of how this group of Amish responds to attempts to impose change from outside. Clearly they didn’t. Or did, and ignored that example. Maybe assuming Amish will eventually break under the pressure.

So will this end with Amish jailed, and additionally humiliated by having their mug shots all over the internet, as was the case in Kentucky? Was that the game plan?

As for getting Amish to comply (again, good luck), here’s law enforcement officer Brad Bishop:

Meanwhile, authorities will continue a campaign to convince the Amish that the flashing light law is designed to protect them and their loved ones.

“The tradition can be changed and ultimately this is about their safety as well as the people that are on our roadways, so the enforcement component will hopefully bring compliance into the law for everybody’s safety,” said Lt. Brad Bishop, who is the commander of OSP’s Ashland Post.

This quote really annoys me. “The tradition can be changed.” Is it just me, or is the attitude here typical nowadays. We know better, and you need to get with our program. No matter your way of life, traditions, or values.

Maybe there is another way?

Rather than trying to force this law upon a group that predictably wouldn’t comply with it (and the state has thousands of Swartzentruber Amish, more than any other state, so this is not just one little community off in a corner somewhere), perhaps they could have promoted a solution some communities of the group have actually put into practice?

Now maaaybe they did look into this. But I have not seen any mention of it in any coverage of this issue over the past two years. I wrote both these representatives in 2020 attempting to bring this to their attention, with no reply from either.

The fact is there are currently at least two visibility-improving options accepted by Swartzentruber Amish (key point) in different communities, outlined here on multiple occasions: 1) PVC pipe sections on buggy wheels, which creates an oscillating reflective effect, similar to flashing lights (used in the Ethridge, Tennessee community) or 2) the large white reflective rectangle/”L” option (Ellenboro, NC or Randolph, MS Swartzentruber Amish have both adopted versions of this).

Ethridge, Tennessee Swartzentruber community
The motion of the PVC pipes creates an oscillating, attention-getting effect, not unlike a flashing light

Is it not better to actually try to work with the group and get something that will a) improve visibility and b) that they actually have a chance of accepting?

Even if this was checked out, it makes little sense to simply produce a new law and expect to coerce Swartzentruber Amish into following it after the fact. Their history says that they don’t do things that way. Change comes slowly, and they’ll often rather go to court or move away than accept something imposed upon them.

Ellenboro, NC. An Amish minister in this community stated that he felt the additional reflective material helped increase visibility
Amish in Pontotoc County, Mississippi use inverted “L” shaped reflective material on both sides of the buggy’s rear area

We’ll see how it plays out and how many people end up going to jail, when they quite possibly could have worked out a solution that might actually already be in practice right now, and helping make the plainest buggies more visible. Maybe not flashing-strobe-light visible, but more than they are currently.

This of course leaves aside the issue of non-Amish drivers, many of whom hit Amish buggies while intoxicated, checking social media, or otherwise distracted. Will the representatives also be addressing that part?

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    28 Comments

    1. Joe Donnermeyer

      Ain't that a kick in the head

      The pun in the comment title is from a line in a song sung by Dean Martin. This is an interesting read and very informative, Most of the comments on the previous posting about this issue were sincere and likewise interesting reads. There is a role model that apparently was not followed by the legislators, and it goes back to the engineering of reflective tape and other means of creating greater buggy visibility by the Department of Agricultural Engineering in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University. The safety specialists bought a couple of buggies, experimented with different visibility technologies (beyond the orange SMV signs) based on light reflection, speed of cars vs buggies etc. However, they also brought bishops from Holmes County to the campus to assess which ones would be acceptable, that is, likely to be adopted. This is a fundamental sociological truth — ask — one that those legislators failed to do very well, especially Rep. Kick. Adoption was extensive back then. P.S. Many decades ago, it was an agricultural engineering professor at OSU who designed the SMV signs.

      1. Ain't it

        Thanks for sharing that good example of outsiders wisely working with the community, Joe.

        Adding to the head-scratch of this story is the fact that these gentlemen represent the state of Ohio, with the largest Swartzentruber population thousands of Amish as mentioned. And this is well-known. It’s not as if this is a state with a few little fringe communities that this would affect.

        And the Swartzentruber Amish are the ones I’d just about least expect to “get with the program”, as the comments of the law enforcement officer seem to suggest they should do.

        I’m surprised that people who live and work in the same general area as these Amish groups come off as so clueless.

    2. Callum Reece Bundy

      Not the first time

      The Amish are used to bureaucrats trying to dictate to them what to do. Whilst I agree the Amish buggies are at risk of being hit, it’s the drivers driving through Amish areas that make it dangerous for the buggies. Maybe reduce the speed limit to 35km/h when driving through Amish-majority districts? After all, horses were there first

      1. Tracy Stout-Powers

        Speed Limit

        Speed limits anymore, it seems, are merely suggestions. The Old Order Amish in Delano, TN use a fairly large orange reflector supplied by the state.

        I hope they can come up with a solution before anymore Amish are hurt or killed.

    3. p.a.m.

      safety on the roads for all people

      public roads are intended for people to use as a means of transportation. to use public roads there need to be rules and regulations and must be enforced for the betterment of the public.

      no person or group of people are above the law.

      start walking if complying with the law “violates traditional beliefs in a simple life.”

      this could be the simple solution.

      1. Horse and buggy vs car

        Agreed!

      2. Robin

        Why I Agree with the Amish Position Opposing "flashing lights"

        Has anybody stopped to think at how often this “SAFETY” issue is increasingly imposed on all societies in the last few years, even globally? Do you really think Your Government cares about all of you people out there, whomever you are?
        I appreciate the Amish stand of for their principles and we will have no Country and no Constitution if we don’t start takining our own God given right, Personal Freedom and Personal Responsibility back from ever increasing BIG Government.
        Why don’t we folks on the car drivers speeding around? Why aren’t we being sensitive to other peoples’ beliefs. Why are we not leaving these people alone? It is BULLYING and it is WRONG.
        We should, for our future childrens’ sakes, get behind the Amish because not long from now our economic system will collapse and we will all need to work together and yes, go back to living and sharing to survive – the Amish will be our teachers in many ways.

        1. Horse and buggy vs car

          Robin: My goodness! Which God-given rights would you be referring to?It would seem that Qanoners love the Amish flouting the laws of the land. The right to flout laws of safety because of personal religious beliefs? Did Jesus not say that we were supposed to follow the laws of man on earth as well as God’s laws because man-made laws were from God? Are you going to choose which laws are to be followed? Since when is the safety of the community less important than one’s cherry-picked religious beliefs? Big government? The world will collapse in five years? Is that when JFK will be returning to Dallas to lead Qanoners and Trump to power? I wonder why JFK or JFK JR didn’t show up the last two predicted times? As for fearmongering, please read this part of your comment: “…what is left of us over the next 5 years on the planet will Need to Live; no Cars; no fuel. Fuel shortages; fertilizer too expensive for farmers. Endless “Jabs” or no work. Banks fail and close, ditto all the above mentioned using repetitive FEAR scenarios en masse.” If that isn’t fearmongering, what is? No jobs? There are plenty of jobs! People don’t want to work unless they are paid wages and benefits many businesses can’t afford to pay and big corporations are too greedy to want to offer! As for this president being the root of your problems, please let me know when you will be returning all the stimulus checks, COVID subsidies, unemployment, social security, Medicare/Medicaid you might be benefitting from at some point if not already. Endless jabs? You don’t want one? Don’t get one! Everything is becoming too expensive? President Biden has nothing to do with it. It is pure greed on the part of corporate farmers and ranchers and oil cartels that is causing the upswing in prices. Please get informed by legitimate news outlets instead of opinion-based, infotainment outlets like FOX, OAN, Newsmax, et al. The Amish need to follow the laws like everyone else.

          1. Tracy Stout-Powers

            Janice Lee Reamer, "cherry picked religious belief" indeed.

            “As for this president being the root of your problems, please let me know when you will be returning all the stimulus checks, COVID subsidies, unemployment, social security, Medicare/Medicaid you might be benefitting from at some point if not already.”

            I’m not sure if you ever worked a day in your life, but if you did, you, along with every other working American, paid in to Social Security. That’s not something Biden came up with in his delusional state. You need to back up and rethink some of the things you’re babbling on about.

            1. Horse and buggy vs car

              “I’m not sure if you ever worked a day in your life”. I retired from teaching, four years ago. I do not receive social security. I receive PERA (Public Employee Retirement Association) benefits.
              “That’s not something Biden came up with in his delusional state.” Where in my comment do I say that President Biden came up with social security? That was another Democrat, President Franklin Roosevelt, who came up with social security. It was part of the New Deal. By the way, it was his administration that championed and implemented unemployment benefits and a shortened work week. It was another Democrat, President Lyndon Johnson, who signed off on Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.
              “You need to back up and rethink some of the things you’re babbling on about.” I don’t think so. You, on the other hand….
              President Biden is delusional? Not at all! Delusion is the one characteristic all Trump cultists share!
              As for the Amish and their refusal to install safety lights on their buggies for “religious” reasons, there is nothing religious or Christ-like about those bishops’ prideful refusal to follow a commonsense law that is in place for the common good! Some vehicle/buggy accidents are the fault of the vehicle driver, but not all.

    4. Emily J

      I’m all for promoting greater safety. Since there are solutions other Swartzentruber communities have accepted, it seems logical to ask local Amish folks to adopt those measures if they refuse the flashing light. I hope everyone in the community can keep the focus on creating safer roads rather than digging in to the confrontation over this particular method.

      1. It would seem logical to do something like that, wouldn’t it.

        In one of the previous posts on this, I referenced a pair of letters from members of the Swartzentruber Amish, presented as supporting some sort of change like this new law.

        https://amishamerica.com/new-ohio-law-flashing-light-buggies-will-amish-comply/

        However if leadership is not bought in then just trying to ram it through is not going to work. And for that matter, I’m not sure how representative these two letters are of the plainest Amish groups’ attitude on this.

    5. J.O.B.

      The quote annoys me as well.

      Maybe he should be the one to change.

      Who is he to assume he knows better and others are wrong?

      And his talk about protecting what people love is just public relations spin in an attempt to manipulate the public and try to get their support. It’s literally what we learned in a public relations college class. Lol!

      Maybe if he is actually interested in protecting what he loves he should move to lower the speed limit. Get the cars off the road since they are the danger. Not the horse and buggy.

      And if you think about it, the flashing lights are a way to allow people to speed and drive reckless. It happens all the time in construction zones. Rarely do people slow down on I-95 in Philly. They just slide over to the next lane to continue speeding.

      1. Horse and buggy vs car

        Nonsense!

    6. David Stear

      Transportation

      This was an informative update; I can sympathize with the Amish who have the most objection to the flashing light idea. With that in mind there is also the consideration that safety is greatly important not only to the Amish but to the drivers of motorized vehicles as well. I can’t see any other way around it but to negotiate and that means community leaders and residents, including Amish membership and especially their bishops coming together to find solutions in order to avoid further accidents involving cars and buggies. In a work situation, human resources personnel often encourage employees to suggest solutions to a given problem or issue rather than merely complaining with no suggestions for resolving the issue. Amish members and bishops may have to come to the realization that further/greater safety measures are probably necessary and rather than resist with no further discussion, offer tentative suggestions on how solutions may be found. By the same token, the police and government officials should refrain from the idea of dictating to the Amish while at the same time encouraging whatever safety ideas they may have while offering their own ideas perhaps excluding for the time being the idea of a flashing light. The bishops might be a little more flexible if other safety alternatives could be offered for their consideration.

    7. Anthony Shope

      We are in the United States

      When laws are enacted the person(s) affected are expected to comply. Why should the Amish be different? Tell them to make private roads through their farms (properties) that allow No motorized vehicular traffic. Then they won’t need to comply with the law.

      Until that time their defiance tells me they accept the publicity, the courts ruling and all the consequences that come with it.

      Amish are no different than any other people, religion’s, or cults. All must abide by the laws of the land.

      Don’t like it they have the freedom to leave just as does any other person.

      1. David Stear

        Reply to Anthony Shope

        While there might be times for something “draconian” in law enforcement as you seem to urge, this is not it; this is a time for conciliation.The Amish generally don’t aim to “make trouble”, all they basically want or need is to be left alone to pursue their way of life and follow their religion as is their right guaranteed by the Constitution. They don’t litter, form gangs, scribble graffiti or seek to destroy. Instead they are stewards of the land and a productive, industrious people. With this in mind I think they ought to be accorded a consideration due good citizenship as this. Taking a heavy handed approach will yield bitter fruit, so to speak, whereas a considerate approach may go further.

        1. Anthony Shope

          Response to David’s comment

          David there is nothing Draconian about the laws or enforcing them.

          I was a police officer for approximately 24 years.

          I drove/drive the Amish families and businesses around in excess of 4 years.

          I have lived near the Amish since 1995 in Mn, IL, IA.

          When laws are passed in the U.S. they are expected to be obeyed. If not then enforcement begins, if enforcement fails is when people begin to lose privileges.

          In the U.S. people can attend public meetings prior to a law being enacted and express their concerns.

          After the law passes people are rightfully expected to obey the laws and may challenge them in court all the while obeying said law.

          In the case of these Amish they have chosen not to comply. Therefore they accept the consequences.

          If they wish to create private roads through their land, then they can have at it as long as no motorized conveyances are used.

          Driving a motorized vehicle in the U.S. is a privilege. And in the case of shared roadways laws must be enacted/enforced that benefits the majority. In this case that is licensed drivers of motorized vehicles.

          I have on a multitude of occasions nearly struck Amish buggies. I came very close to what would have resulted in the deaths of young school age kids racing multiple small carts out of school ground onto a highway. I have witnessed on a few occasions horses that simply got out of control and crossed into traffic resulting in near fatal injuries.

          I have witnessed every weekend Amish youth going cruising. Cruising is when the horse is allowed it’s head and to go where it likes with no human interference.

          Finally I have seen on multiple occasions Amish driving drunk.

          The Amish are not different when it comes to the rules of the road.

          They will either obey the laws or be forced not to drive.

          Their livelihoods in most communities rely in large part on the (English). Again they don’t have to like the laws, just obey it or face the consequences.

      2. Horse and buggy vs car

        Which is why some prefer to move to the jungles of Central America. Cheap land and very few laws or rules for them to follow. To some Amish, the laws are for thee not them. In my state, in my area, they use the orange triangle on the backs of their buggies. As I mentioned in a previous comment, the Bible does mention something to the effect that man-made laws come from God and therefore, must be followed. The problem is that most Christians cherry-pick biblical teachings to follow. These particular Amish are sticking it to the English. To forego safety for one’s people says a lot about the leaders of those people. I’ve spoken with some of the Amish in my area about this dilemma, and their response is that they don’t understand why there is a problem with putting some sort of safety warning on the buggies.

      3. Robin

        With all due respect, Mr. Shope:
        Our “LAWS” of the land keep changing and the power hungry politicians keep making MORE OF THEM!
        It is getting ridiculous. Big Bloated Government is about to have its Big Crash and we will have a lawless society. Thanks to current President, it is already in the making.
        The Amish are really trying to show everyone that we all used to have ancestors, only a few generations ago that would not have tolerated, yes, tolerated this ridiculous abuse of power with the issue of “safety” CONSTANTLY being used in 24/7 headlines. How in God’s name did humanity survive this many centuries with all these FEARS generated by politicans and mass Media that everyone is plugged into 24/7 WITHOUT BIG GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE?? We all have changed so much as a people, a whiny, Narcissistic, abusive society that the Amish now look very weird to us in their refusal to comply with idiocy. I think it won’t be long before we will all be on the side of the Amish lifestyle, because what is left of us over the next 5 years on the planet will Need to Live Like Our Ancestors. No Cars; no fuel. Fuel shortages; fertilizer too expensive for farmers. Endless “Jabs” or no work. Banks fail and close, ditto all the above mentioned using repetitive FEAR scenarios en masse. Who will survive collamity coming? Groups like the Amish who Dared to Go Against Over-reach of Power!

    8. Amish cited for buggy light violation

      I like the nice way was said about love for things we have for saftey. However I think it’s clever for the Amish to request to use pvc pipe instead if it’s bright enough. Would be nice trade off instead of flashing lights. At least they are trying to come up with good ideas for being more safe sharing the road. Perhaps painting the whole back of buggy in a reflective color. Perhaps the flashing lights might spook a horse traveling behind or passing so could cause a risk of danger. I hope they can agree on something.

    9. Just do it

      For the sake of your children do this. They aren’t in car seats you wonder why bad things happen. We all have our beliefs in our religion. BUT FOR THE SAKE OF CARS AND BUGGIES DO THIS . IT EFFECTS ALL OF US. Thank you and God Bless

      1. SRB

        Cars are the cause

        Very seldom does a buggy collide with a buggy. The speed of the car overtakes the buggy in short notice to most drivers of cars. Cell phones must be turned off. A hefty fine of $1,000 for violation of cellphone use with no exceptions and no plea bargaining, no first time you get off the hook.
        Drinking and driving need to be hit hard. No plea bargain. Fines in the $1,000’s and up. Drink and drive lose your license for 6 months the first time you do it. 2nd time 1 year. No one is so special that they did not know to not drink and drive.
        Cars need to be made to slow down and the speed limit should be slower. 35 mph is plenty. Is there a fire somewhere that drivers of cars must all get to? No!
        I have seen how drinkers and cellphone users think they can get away with all this. Double down on them everytime they get caught.

    10. Lorna Klotzbach

      No, Don't "Just Do It."

      Today’s lawmakers are not used to people who hold beliefs, stand up for them peaceably, and are willing to suffer for doing so. They underestimated the Amish commitment to their beliefs.

      As you stated, if those lawmakers, who couched their coercion in soft, “it’s for the children” language, had called together the Amish bishops and said, “We have a terrible and deadly problem that needs to be solved. How can we, together, solve it?” then, they would have come up with a workable solution. In their arrogance, and their ignorance of Amish principles, they failed to do even attempt this method.

      Those arrogant lawmakers seem to think that if they threaten, shame, and take money from the Amish, that they will comply. They are hoping that their threat to “cancel” them will intimidate them as it does so many Americans today. It won’t. It shouldn’t. Those who say, “Just move away if you don’t want to comply,” might want to look at who was there first. Maybe it’s the folks with the big vehicles, the cell phones, the desire to speed from thing to thing, that should be given this ultimatum.

      While I agree that it is nerve-wracking to drive a pickup truck with a big horse trailer on those incredibly narrow, hilly roads without shoulders, it can be done successfully with patience, caution and allowing for more time than when on the expressways. To my knowledge, the ladies on their bicycles and the horse buggies have the same rights to the roads as the semis and SUVs.

      Perhaps those lawmakers could look at an old proverb, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” The honey has to be genuine rather than just vinegar with a false label on it.

    11. Lisa Yetman

      Turnaround

      Yes, safety should be something that we all care about, but tradition and beliefs count, too! The Swartzentruber Amish groups are among (if not the) most conservative groups and least likely to accept anything too worldly or forced upon them.
      Why didn’t the two representatives who penned this law meet with folks from the group -or consult with other individuals more familiar with these Amish groups to find out what would be acceptable for safety. Those other methods pointed out in the article are reasonable and not “fancy” and easily applied!
      Another factor in play is that many of us Englischers tend to gather all Amish groups into one categorized banner – not knowing that there are subtle differences for each group – not to mention that each group is further broken down into districts with bishops who deem new ideas as good according to their interpretation of the Ordnung for their district.
      Finally, we who drive about in our motored vehicles need to be MORE AWARE as to whom we share the roads with..not who is calling or texting or yakking in the back seat as we are trying to drive. Being impaired is a big problem, too, and is the number one reason so many buggy versus motorized vehicle accidents take place. Whenever my husband and I travel into Pennsylvania, or Ohio, or Western New York, or even Maryland and Delaware to visit the various Amish areas, we are very careful to be courteous in sharing the roads we all use. Why not make the rest of use more aware with whom we share – instead of arbitrarily enacting a law affecting one group or another unequally? So much for listening to ALL of your constituents, guys!

      1. Good points there Lisa. I get the impression that they are only somewhat aware of differences in Amish groups.

        What suggests this to me is the way they describe the Swartzentruber Amish. They don’t use the term “Swartzentruber” but rather call them “old order Amish” who aren’t up to speed on things.

        I might be drawing the wrong conclusions, but in my experience it’s typically outsiders who don’t know a ton about the Amish who use the term “Old Order” in this way as a stand-in for the “most traditional” of the horse-and-buggy Amish.

        Whereas “Old Order” is actually a much wider blanket term for basically all horse-and-buggy Amish. So I took that comment as a “tell”.

    12. Kelly DiPari

      Trouble unsubscribing

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